How to encourage and support
Entrepreneurship education programmes are initiatives aimed at spreading an entrepreneurial spirit among potential entrepreneurs, increasing their preferences for a career in entrepreneurship and providing them with the necessary skills and knowledge to be able to be innovative and start successful businesses.
Given the evidence that entrepreneurship is not necessarily innate and under the assumption that it can be taught, entrepreneurship education is widely used around the world to raise new entrepreneurs and ‘intrapreneurs’ – entrepreneurial employees who help to drive innovation and growth from within existing businesses.
We’ve reviewed 15 experimental studies that look at entrepreneurship education initiatives. Here’s what we’ve learned and some ideas worth trying!
While some programmes manage to build participants’ skills and set them up for successful entrepreneurship, other schemes only have short-term effects that vanish rapidly over time.
The same programme can have different effects on different individuals depending on their age, stage of development and the specific barriers to entrepreneurship they face.
Adding the right role models to your entrepreneurship education programme can improve participants’ beliefs, attitudes and intentions towards entrepreneurship. But the choice of the role model is key.
It depends on the make-up of the original teams. Encouraging team diversity in contexts where students tend to form very homogeneous teams can improve performance, but increasing it further in situations where teams are already moderately diverse can be detrimental.
Evidence-informed ideas for designing entrepreneurship education programmes
Ideas worth trying
AT A POLICY LEVEL
- If you’re aiming to influence young people’s career choices, try targeting students in their last year of education who are about to enter the labour market.
- If you’re aiming to spur the creation of businesses that go beyond subsistence level, try focusing on developing skills that, according to scientific evidence, correlate the most with transformative entrepreneurship – like confidence, ambition or self-efficacy.
- If you’re dealing with primary and lower secondary school children, try prioritising soft skills for entrepreneurship over business knowledge and hard skills.
- If you’re dealing with highly educated individuals, try prioritising skills like resource seeking and networking, as lack of knowledge might not be the main barrier.
ON A PROGRAMME
- Try including real-life entrepreneurs to provide testimonies and act as mentors or advisors in your programme.
- If you’re hoping for an easily scalable intervention, consider using non-interactive formats such as recorded interviews with real-life entrepreneurs to expose participants to role models.
- If you’re willing to use non-traditional and non-interactive educational activities, like edutainment or testimonial videos, try complementing these with formal in-class training to discuss the content presented and consolidate business concepts.
- If you’re aiming to build business knowledge and hard skills, try combining theoretical training with well-defined practical activities such as defining a business plan or pitching ideas.
- When selecting role models, try choosing individuals from groups that are underrepresented in entrepreneurship.
- Try pairing participants with role models of the same gender.
- If you’re willing to increase team diversity in your course, try forming larger teams so as not to compromise the benefits of having teammates that participants can easily relate to.
- Try sharing the potential benefits of deviating from fully homogeneous teams with the participants to encourage students to form more diverse teams voluntarily.
What to avoid
AT A POLICY LEVEL
- Avoid using entrepreneurship education to make participants more employable. The evidence suggests that wage-employment is either unaffected or reduced by it.
- Avoid nudging youths to rush into starting their own businesses before they have the resources and skills needed to succeed. Failed premature attempts can hinder positive attitudes and intentions towards self-employment.
- Avoid investing significant resources into teacher training without changing the incentives for teachers and their students in terms of how they’re evaluated.
ON A PROGRAMME
- Avoid using role models if the main objective of your programme is to build the participants’ entrepreneurial skills and business knowledge.
- Avoid using low-intensity exposure to role-model interventions with individuals that are heavily exposed to entrepreneurship through other sources such as their parents.
- Avoid presenting a distorted image of what it means to be an entrepreneur. Such images can lead to unrealistic beliefs and expectations about actual barriers to self-employment.
- If you’re selecting role models for school-aged students, avoid including successful entrepreneurs who dropped out of school, as this might reduce the effort they put into their own education.
- Avoid creating extremely diverse teams in your course. The costs of building effective communication within the team can outweigh the benefits of gathering a wider variety of skills.
What more should we learn?
We would like to see many more experiments happening in the field of entrepreneurship education. Testing more policies, programmes and approaches to delivering entrepreneurship education would enrich the body of robust evidence that exists today.