Policies to promote entrepreneurship among high-skilled youths need to tackle other constraints beyond lack of business knowledge.
A new entrepreneurship track introduced into the undergraduate curriculum under which students in the last year of their degree receive business training and personalised coaching sessions. Students can graduate by writing and defending a business plan instead of a traditional undergraduate thesis.
- To foster entrepreneurship aspirations and skills among university graduates
- To increase self-employment among university graduates
- To improve participants’ employment outcomes
The intervention was tested in one of the regions with the highest youth unemployment rates in the world for university graduates and with the slowest school-to-work transitions. It’s also worth noting that the Tunisian revolution took place between the period when participants engaged in the entrepreneurship track and the programme results were evaluated. As such, the observed impacts need to be interpreted in the context of post-revolution Tunisia.
Final-year university students who signed up for the entrepreneurship track; youths with a higher predisposition to self-employment than the general young population. Participants had high expectations for their participation in the programme, with 88 per cent believing that the entrepreneurship track would facilitate their entry into the labour market and 89 per cent that it would lead to higher earnings.
- Business training: Basic training programme lasting 20 full days and covering entrepreneurship culture and behavioural skills, development and choice of business ideas, general management principles (including leadership, partnership choice, organisation, time management, and planning tools) and identification of relevant markets and market research. Advanced business training on information research, business plans and networking abilities is also provided. The public employment office delivers the training, which is conducted in small groups and includes practical research on the ground.
- Coaching and supervision: Eight individual or small-group coaching sessions support participants to finalise their business plans. They are provided by private sector entrepreneurs working in an industry relevant to the student’s business idea or specialist coaches from public agencies. A university tutor supervises the development and finalisation of the business plan.
- Project presentations: Participants have the opportunity to pitch their ideas and get feedback from bankers and business experts in a pitching session. At the end of the year, they defend their business plan as part of the graduation requirements.
- One year after graduation, participants had higher business knowledge but not a more entrepreneurial mindset. Their entrepreneurial ecosystem networks were no stronger than before.
- One year after graduation, participants were 3 percentage points more likely to be self-employed (7.4 per cent) than non-participants (4.4 per cent). However, this effect vanished after three years.
- The short-term effect on self-employment was compensated for by a wage employment decrease (substitution effect), which left the overall employment rate unaffected at around 28 per cent.
- Four years after graduation, participants were more likely to have tried to set up projects at some point following graduation and to have prepared a business plan for their project.
- However, they weren’t more likely to have undertaken any additional preparatory actions or to have succeeded in their attempts to set up their businesses.
- Almost three out of four reported access to capital as one of the main constraints to launching a successful business.
- Four years after graduation, participants weren’t more likely to prefer self-employment over wage employment.
- Lack of business knowledge might not be the main constraint to entrepreneurship for highly educated young men and women. As such, policies to promote entrepreneurship among high-skilled youths might need to tackle other barriers like access to resources.
- The entrepreneurship track doesn’t seem to better align student skills with employer needs or improve their prospects of finding salaried employment.