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Can you teach entrepreneurship


It’s tempting at times to think that entrepreneurship is something that is natural as opposed to something that can be taught.  People are said to have a flair for business, an entrepreneurial verve that sets them apart from the rest of us.  Is it true though?

A recent study suggests that it is very much a skill that can be learned, with the ability to think in an entrepreneurial way something that exists within most of us, even if we don’t know it.  It suggests that action orientated training can help to unlock this potential and unleash the entrepreneur in us all.

Finding the entrepreneur within

The study saw several hundred participants from a range of professions quizzed on their attitude towards starting up a business.  Roughly half of the group received training on entrepreneurship, which gave them both support and advise towards their endeavors.  The remainder of the group, therefore, provided the control.

Interviews were conducted before and after each participant entered into the study, and again after twelve months had passed since the training was completed.

“Our data clearly reveals the effectiveness of the training,” the authors explain.

How entrepreneurialism evolved

In the short-term, the effect of the training manifested itself in much greater confidence in their potential as entrepreneurs, and a seemingly greater willingness to start up their own venture compared to their peers in the control group.

At the twelve month stage, this shift in mindset appeared to endure, with those from the training group still more positive about entrepreneurship than their peers.

The training program was specifically developed for developing countries by academics at Lünebuld, and was called Student Training for Entrepreneurial Promotion (STEP).  It was a twelve week program held at various universities throughout Africa and Asia with the primary aim being to encourate awareness of the entrepreneurial potential within each student, and support them in making the move into starting up a new venture.

A mixture of practical and theoretical

The training consists of a combination of theory based content and practical exercises.  At the heart of the prgroam is a belief in action focused activities, with students encouraged to learn about entrepreneurship by actually doing it themselves.  Students are given a small amount of seed capital to create their own small enterprise and to try and develop their business during the course of the program.

The hope is that this practical experience will give them the chance to try out the theory they’re learning, and to learn from the mistakes they will inevitably make along the way.

Helping developing economies grow

The researchers believe their program is especially important for developing countries whereby more established employment opportunities are often scarce, especially among younger people.  In Uganda, for instance, it’s estimated that 60 percent of young adults are out of work.  Providing support for starting a new business can be valuable in giving such people a way into the job market.

It’s one of a number of projects in this area that are doing some cool things.  I wrote recently about Andela, which is a talent accelerator that aims to give young Africans access to the same kind of educational resources as young people in the developed world.

In addition to this training the service offers mentoring to promising young people, before connecting them up to employs from around the world who are in need of developers who can operate remotely.

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