A three-week evidence-informed intensive entrepreneurship course can not only increase the hard and soft entrepreneurial skills of young people but also expand their income opportunities and set them on a higher earning trajectory.
An innovative in-residence three-week mini-MBA programme for secondary school students, modelled on Western business school curricula and adapted to the local context. The programme is designed using insights from the economic and psychology literature, and it combines a variety of exercises and teaching methods to make it highly participatory. The course has two versions: one that focuses more on hard skills and another focusing on soft skills. It’s free and includes lectures, room, board and transport. The estimated cost is US$118 per student.
- To provide hard and soft transformational entrepreneurial skills
- To create transformational entrepreneurs
- To improve market outcomes among participants
This intervention was tested in a country where, on average, youths engage in the labour market early in life (when they are 14 to 15 years old). The programme was delivered during the break between two terms of the academic year.
Students in their last year of secondary school who voluntarily sign up to participate. The average age of participants is 20 years old, 34 per cent of them are women, 73 per cent attend a boarding school and 70 per cent plan to attend university. Approximately 40 per cent already own a small business.
- Hard skills training: To provide foundational skills in accounting, business creation, management and finance.
- Soft skills training: To develop intra- and inter-personal skills of self-control, self-awareness, persuasion and negotiation, and the ability to regulate emotions, delay gratification and make sound decisions.
- Business plan training: To guide students in writing a business plan that they need to pitch at the end of the course. The training includes an in-depth approach to key elements like market research, human resources, legal and tax issues, financial planning, fundraising and marketing.
- Autonomous work time: Students are allocated two time slots each day to work on their homework or business plans.
Teachers are provided with four weeks of general training on teaching methods complemented by a three-week training programme that focuses exclusively on the topic they’re teaching (hard skills, soft skills or business plan). The teacher training programme includes mock lesson presentations and role play.
Participants receive either:
- A version of the training that focuses on hard skills: 75 per cent of the time dedicated to hard skills and 25 per cent to soft skills.
- A version of the training that focuses on soft skills: 75 per cent of the time dedicated to soft skills and 25 per cent to hard skills.
A third group doesn’t receive any training.
- The programme increased the hard skills of all participants. Although right after the programme participants who received the hard skills focused training outperformed those who received the soft skills focused training, there was no difference between them after 3.5 years.
- In the short term, the programme improved the soft skills of all participants, especially those in the soft skills focused training.
- In the medium run, this translated to all participants having higher plasticity, stability and better stress management. However, only participants who received the soft skills focused training showed greater levels of self-efficacy and better skills of persuasion and negotiation.
- Three and a half years after the training, participants were 10 per cent more likely to be economically active if they had participated in the hard skills focused training and 7 per cent more likely if their training focused on soft skills. These differences were largely driven by training participants being 19 per cent more likely to be self-employed.
- Youths in both training schemes were 10 to 11 percentage points more likely to start and run enterprises that survived over time. They also created more transformative and profitable ventures that grew beyond an individual’s subsistence needs. Their businesses had higher profits (ranging from 28 to 35 per cent higher), more capital investments (from 59 to 73 per cent higher) and created around 25 per cent more jobs.
- As a result, the programme also increased participants’ overall earnings by around 38.7 per cent and 21.2 per cent for those who had received the hard and soft skills focused training, respectively. These differences were mainly driven by higher business profits.
- Both curricula are highly cost-effective since the extra earnings generated over one to two months compensate for the cost of the programme (US$118 per participant).
- A short, intensive and well-designed training programme for secondary school students can boost transformational soft and hard entrepreneurial skills, set participants on a higher earning trajectory and expand income opportunities.
- Providing the right skills to young future entrepreneurs can lead them to create ventures that grow beyond subsistence businesses to generate jobs and economic opportunities for others.