Entrepreneur training provides vital life skills

Professor Anne Glover's keynote speech at the gala final of this year's Converge Challenge
Professor Anne Glover's keynote speech at the gala final of this year's Converge Challenge
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Put time, talent, attitude, energy to best use, says Olga Kozlova

During her keynote speech at the gala final of this year’s Converge Challenge, Professor Anne Glover, chief scientific adviser to the president of the European Commission, made a telling remark.

She stated: “In order to get a good job in the future, skills will be more important than knowledge because it will be the norm to change jobs various times in your life and to be faced all the time with new technological developments. That’s a paradigm shift for our educational system. We need to prepare our current and future graduates for this.”

The days of the “one job for life” scenario are well and truly over and if what Ann Glover suggests is true, for many of us it means that our enterprising behaviours such as being innovative and creative, being able to take and manage risks, our can-do attitude and drive to make ideas happen will be more important than ever to sharpen our multi-faceted career path. This begs the question – can these enterprising skills be effectively taught, or are we born to take these set skills and apply them naturally to whichever job or career we find ourselves applying for?

While enterprising skills help graduates to distinguish themselves in the eyes of the employer, there are further entrepreneurship competences required by those ready to start up a business.

There is a popular notion that entrepreneurs are born, not made. Along with this notion goes the belief that entrepreneurs must have a particular, inborn personality. Scientists, psychologists and academics may perceive that no “typical” personality profile for entrepreneurs has been found. By and large, entrepreneurs seem to be as diverse a group as almost any other group of people. But does this mean that entrepreneurship is a natural extension to an individual’s personality, or can it be taught and learned through training courses and educational programmes?

Although some people may have misgivings, the fact is that enterprise education and training has grown massively over the last few decades and universities have had a key role to play here. They provide the inspiration for what is possible.

Education in this area has arisen because of demand. Universities and business schools are helping to popularise the growth in enterprise education with a variety of a curricula and extra-curricular activities. For those who have developed the interest in actually starting a business there is a slew of accelerator and incubator programmes that construct the ecosystems to engage and enable students to become real entrepreneurs.

The point suggests enterprising skills, like almost any other skill, can be developed through “schooling” and not just through personal, first-hand experience. It requires personality, orientation, tenacity, and commitment to solving problems.

Enterprise education empowers young people to make well-informed decisions about their future, whether they choose to become entrepreneurs or not. Students are likely to discover that they already own four powerful assets: time, talent, attitude, and energy.

They learn to use these assets to create businesses and jobs, and of course build wealth strategies enabling them to reap the financial benefit of their endeavours.

Teaching enterprise means empowering people at a young age with ambition, desire, and self-belief. These can be expressed in a multitude of ways. You need aspiration to be a great artist, scientist or entrepreneur, and nothing stops someone from combining them all.

As the serial entrepreneur and former Dragon’s Den star Doug Richard says: “You don’t have to become an entrepreneur to find an entrepreneurship education valuable.”

Innovation and entrepreneurship are crucial to the continued rise in our world’s productivity and wealth, so we are hugely underestimating the economic and social benefits Britain, and beyond, could reap by instilling these invaluable skills at an early age.

If Anne Glover’s comments are borne out, arming our young people with entrepreneurial behaviours to set them on the career journey will be one of the best learning choices of their lives.

Olga Kozlova is director of Converge Challenge