Why should business get involved in education?

Traditionally, young people are educated to become competent employees. This has been the goal for many years and has proved to be essential for the development and growth of modern society. For many years the educational systems has fostered an increasing number of educated and trained individuals for the benefit of the individual and society.

Throughout the times businesses as well as public organisations have recruited skilled employees fit to carry out predefined tasks. This is positive, but is it good enough? – What is the use of such fixed sets of skills when in today’s society we experience an increasing unemployment rate of new graduates? Is this development only the result of a worldwide recession, or is it also the effect of an outdated perspective on the skills needed by graduates?

What can be done to help our young people? One of the solutions could be to teach young people the skills which will make them capable of taking the initiative, exploiting opportunities, and being enterprising. Such skills would make them capable of creating their own jobs and future. We call it entrepreneurial skills and this is what entrepreneurship education is all about: That children and young people achieve knowledge and skills which make them capable of not just starting companies but also of taking initiatives in other paths of their lives.

Studies show that students who participate in entrepreneurship education experience an increasing desire to become an entrepreneur. Children in primary school are more fond of going to school and this increases the likelihood that they will get a high school diploma or graduate from a vocational training institution. Pupils and students alike initiate more activities outside their school and studies – some of them even start their own companies – if they have received entrepreneurship education and training. The likelihood of starting a company is three times as high for individuals who have achieved entrepreneurship skills and competences than for those who have not.

Christian Vintergaard & Niels Soelberg, Microsoft Denmark GM

Christian Vintergaard & Niels Soelberg, Microsoft Denmark GM

Can the educational system accomplish the job? In the individual European countries and on the EU level, initiatives are being taken to support the agenda of implementing innovation and entrepreneurship in educations. In Denmark, for instance, the government composed a national strategy for entrepreneurship educations at all levels of the educational system and established the Danish Foundation for Entrepreneurship – Young Enterprise to carry out the strategy: FFE-YE supports the development of education, guides teachers, assists heads of institutions and implements other activities that will spread entrepreneurship education.

In this line of work it has proven to be essential to have a cooperation between the educational institutions and their outside world. The corporate world is a key player in educating the entrepreneurial students. A key element in entrepreneurship education is the connection between theory and practice which can be brought about through the practical experiences and commitment of the companies. More specifically, the companies can for instance contribute to the development of new courses and function as guest speakers and jury members at innovation camps and business idea competitions.

How can business contribute? In Denmark, FFE-YE and Microsoft Corporation have a long-standing collaboration. Microsoft’s dedication to the objective of creating opportunities for young people under their YouthSpark programme makes the organisation an ideal partner for the Danish Foundation for Entrepreneurship. The Danish Foundation for Entrepreneurship have recently received a Microsoft YouthSpark Grant that makes us able to take our partnership with Microsoft to the next level. The main focus of our partnership is social entrepreneurship and entrepreneurship through technology, a field with great potential, for example through the development of new applications. Dedicated Microsoft employees contribute to the completion of innovation camps and act as jury members in competitions for students at the upper secondary level and in higher education. Furthermore, Microsoft contributes with valuable input and expertise in a European project which will result in an online tool for the assessment of entrepreneurial competences. This will be an important tool for the development of entrepreneurship education at all levels in the education systems all over Europe.

It is clear to the Danish Foundation for Entrepreneurship – Young Enterprise that the education system cannot do without the input and dedication from the business world if young people are to be trained and educated so that they are capable of creating the corporate world of the future. That is why businesses should get involved.

For more information about the effects of entrepreneurship education (the results are from studies of the Danish education system), please click here.

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About the Author

CEO at Young Enterprise

Christian Vintergaard (PhD) has since 2010 acted as CEO for the Danish Foundation for Entrepreneurship - Young Enterprise. He sits on several foreign and domestic boards and advisory committees for private organizations, NGOs and government institutions.