Expanding the definition of entrepreneurship training to promote access for all

Amidst the global career landscape reshaped by the COVID-19 pandemic, a significant trend has emerged. It is not uncommon to find that nearly one-third of university students worldwide are now envisioning themselves as entrepreneurs within five years of graduation, as per recent statistics.

This should not be surprising. Demand for entrepreneurship education internationally spiked by 66% in 2020. This is driven by the fact that entrepreneurship is often narrowly defined only as creating a new venture and, therefore, remains accessible to just a few. Universities have a significant opportunity to refocus entrepreneurship education as a global mindset or skillset that can be taught.

Expanding the view of entrepreneurship and entrepreneurship training is particularly relevant in South Africa, where jobs are scarce, and the youth are often looked upon to provide for families and be a shining light for communities. They are expected to provide the opportunities that Government cannot. The best way to achieve this is through education.

While entrepreneurship training focuses on starting new businesses, it should also foster innovative thinking and critical thinking skills that is applicable in various contexts. This can be achieved through teaching students how to apply entrepreneurial skills to solve problems in organisations, NGOs, community projects, or even personal initiatives.

A recent article on the University World News website discusses this issue in more detail, explaining how it can be effectively reframed in the current environment.

Mutual benefits

The article points out that public-private partnerships demonstrate why and how working across academia, industry, and government enhances multidisciplinary entrepreneurial development. Each sector plays a vital role in such organisational collaborations.

Higher education institutions, for example, offer a culture conducive to developing entrepreneurial talent, faculty with scholarly expertise about entrepreneurship and access to mentorship and alumni networks, among numerous other benefits.

On the other hand, companies bring real-world knowledge, hands-on learning experiences for students and opportunities for applied research and development. Government agencies represent funding opportunities and serve as policymakers to affect systems-level change.

Partnerships can result in new technologies that boost local economies or create jobs, such as the development of green energy solutions through university-industry collaborations. An example of a successful partnership is the Standford University StartX Accelerator where a partnership was created with Silicon Valley companies that provides mentorship and resources to student entrepreneurs, leading to successful startups like Lime and Branch.

The article adds that universities play a pivotal role here. Whereas government agencies or corporations generally lack the infrastructure to connect entities to facilitate entrepreneurship, universities – inherently vested with a mission to advance education, research, and service to society – are arguably best equipped to convene all key stakeholders.

Global partnerships

The article points out that global partnerships are essential in facilitating study abroad and exchange programmes that create rich pathways for teaching fundamental skills relevant to fostering an entrepreneurial mindset, such as risk-taking.

For instance, students in Lehigh’s Global Entrepreneurial Fellowship programme (an exclusive education-industry partnership between Lehigh University and the Nasdaq Entrepreneurial Center) have interned with international startups and worked with company leaders who are confronting real-world business issues and who have different approaches to entrepreneurial thinking. Every summer, Lehigh students from all backgrounds and disciplines devote eight weeks to full-time internships with startups worldwide.

Students who have interned abroad can bring innovative ideas back to their home countries, fostering local entrepreneurship with a global perspective.

The article adds that the students have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to get a hands-on education in global entrepreneurship. Students selected for the programme can develop cross-cultural competencies typically unavailable through classroom learning. Interns from the programme have joined companies such as CoworkIn (India), Tenl.io (United Arab Emirates) and Zen Educate (United Kingdom), to name just a few.

Education at the forefront

MANCOSA believes that education is at the forefront of all professional development. This is enshrined in the MANCOSA School of Education (SOE), which is at the forefront of incorporating international best practice principles into its courses.

The elements of teaching entrenched and fostered through the SOE can be used by entrepreneurs to guide and mentor employees in building their careers and helping them achieve key performance indicators. These elements are developed further through Masterclasses with MANCOSA Alumni and industry experts who provide students with real-world experience in using these elements effectively within a business environment.

When it comes to innovative education, the SOE introduced the iTEACHlab with the vision to foster professional development, critical thinking skills, innovation, and creativity of those specialising in the field of education. The iTEACHlab is an innovative hub for educators in training qualified educators, those in school management and concerned community members. Teacher employability, educator resourcefulness, technology, and teaching, and changing the landscape of learning and teaching are the main aims of the iTEACHlab.

MANCOSA’s School of Education, through its innovative iTEACHlab, plays a pivotal role in redefining entrepreneurship training by fostering professional development, critical thinking, innovation, and creativity among educators. The iTEACHlab integrates technology into teaching, enhances teacher employability and resourcefulness, and involves the community, ensuring that educators can inspire and equip students with an entrepreneurial mindset. By adopting international best practices and tailoring them to local needs, the iTEACHlab exemplifies how modern education initiatives can make entrepreneurship accessible to all, thus driving socio-economic progress in South Africa

Being a part of Honoris United Universities has also benefited MANCOSA. The SOE has access to Pan African insights regarding education best practice principles, which it can implement in its courses.

Further ways that MANCOSA fits in

MANCOSA also has several courses that provide aspiring entrepreneurs with the necessary skills to realise their dreams of owning a business. Additionally, MANCOSA runs several business incubators where mentorship and guidance are provided to provide entrepreneurs with additional skills associated with the experience of running a business.

Finally, aspiring entrepreneurs can enhance their soft skills through the Honoris Career Centre, which offers practical guidance on enhancing one’s journey to success.

Looking at the future of entrepreneurship training, as framed in the University World News article, MANCOSA has already taken a significant step towards implementing these interventions with the view that entrepreneurship can significantly benefit the South African economy. MANCOSA wants to be at the forefront of this movement.

To realise this vision, industry leaders and government agencies can join forces in creating inclusive and multidisciplinary entrepreneurship programmes. By leveraging the unique strengths of each sector and fostering a culture of collaboration, we can equip the next generation with the entrepreneurial skills needed to drive socio-economic progress and create sustainable futures. Let us work together to ensure that entrepreneurship training is not a privilege for a few but a powerful tool for all.

Dr. Stephan Van Der Westhuizen

Dr. Stephan Van Der Westhuizen

Academic: MANCOSA School of Education (SOE)

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