Imagery and research

Educating an entrepreneurial mindset

Educating for entrepreneurship has probably never been more timely. As Van Rompuy notes in his ETF keynote, the gap between job listings and unemployment is increasing. There is clearly work to be done in terms of better matching the job seeker capabilities and job requirements. Entrepreneurship and entrepreneurial skills and attitudes are one primary route through which this gap can be bridged.

In order to classify the core elements of entrepreneurship training, I did some research and came across a study that tries to accomplish the same goal. Volery and Müller (2006) have presented a framework for assessing the effectiveness  of entrepreneurial education programs. According to them, there is ample research on whether entrepreneurial education is beneficial to fostering entrepreneurship, the answer being yes. However, there is less research on what actually causes a program’s usefulness.

The framework as proposed in the study hence attempts to delineate what aspects are important in educating an entrepreneurial mindset, and how those aspects affect the intention to become an entrepreneur.

The framework they have developed builds on the seminal work by Ajzen; the theory of planned behavior (Fig 1). According to the model, behavior (e.g. whether a student becomes an entrepreneur) is driven by an intention to do so. Intention refers to the motivation; or how hard the individual is willing to try.

The intention to perform the action; i.e. an intention to become an entrepreneur; can be predicted and assisted by focusing entrepreneurial education on three antecedents:

Attitude to the behavior: The individual’s general attitude towards becoming an entrepreneur is an important issue. Without the proper attitude, entrepreneurship decisions will likely not happen. The key words are independence, self-realization, and freedom.

The attitudinal component is part of the system in many entrepreneurial programs in general. However, for some reason, it is not mentioned in the ETF report. This may result from many of the programs being targeted towards budding entrepreneurs, who may not need attitudinal coaching. The Lebanon case does speak about “entrepreneurial inspiration”, which may be a form of motivation.

Subjective norms: these are the person’s normative expectations of others, or what he/she perceives as normatively acceptable; i.e. whether entrepreneurial work is viewed as socially acceptable. Volery and Müller focus on the family’s effect for opening up possibilities. They also suggest bringing students together with young entrepreneurs and professors with an entrepreneurial attitude. This is present in many of the programs presented in the ETF report. E.g. InnoOmnia features close cooperation between students and entrepreneurs. A somewhat similar cooperation can be seen in the Lebanon case.

Perceived behavioral control refers to the level of difficulty of the behavior that the person views. This would imply the ease or difficulty the student perceives as being related to the actual task of succeeding in entrepreneurship.

Increasing the feeling of “I can do it” may result more formal education in business skills, or case studies provided by actual entrepreneurs. Educating the students in key marketing and finance skills is expected to increase the perception of one’s future success. Several of the cases in the ETF report address the competence issue. Most notably, the SimVenture case appears to offer substantial benefits as it directly works towards improving student’s capabilities in running a business on a day-to-day basis.

Theory of Planned Behavior, from

T Volery, S Müller - Rencontres de St-Gall, 2006 -

Entrepreneurship Training: 12 Good Practice Examples from ETF - European Training Foundation
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