In recent years the North East has seen employers and educators come together to establish enterprise education as a priority within the region. With growth and innovation an ever pressing issue for the region’s business leaders, the North East’s abundant and talented student body should be the first port of call to bring a fresh perspective to North East businesses in 2012. Developing entrepreneurial skills and behaviours is increasingly important for businesses to ensure long term sustainability in such a volatile economic climate. Business support is necessary to ensure such developments are relevant within the current and future business landscape, but it is the businesses themselves which serve to benefit from their involvement in such activities.
Whilst understanding that entrepreneurship is a viable career option, enterprise education is not just about nurturing the next generation of entrepreneurs but developing an ‘enterprising workforce’.
The discourse of ‘enterprising workforce’ is all very well and good but what do we mean by this and how can it practically be achieved?
Within a Higher Education context, there is a clear distinction between studying enterprise and entrepreneurship from a theoretical perspective, and developing enterprising and entrepreneurial skills. It is this focus on developing entrepreneurial thinking and behaviour which is fundamental to creating a future enterprising workforce.
Members of an enterprising workforce should be able to:
- Make effective decisions
- Work well in teams
- Have the ability to lead
- Have the confidence to identify opportunities and run with them
To develop such thinking and behaviour, employer engagement is key! Educators and employers should work together to provide opportunities for students to work on industry-realistic projects, either as part of their course or as an extra-curricular activity. Not only will this increase their commercial awareness but also provide real experience of making decisions, working in teams, leading and generating innovative ideas.
Encouraging and facilitating self-reflection and constructive feedback from others following such projects will increase students’ personal awareness of what they do, how they do it and the impact this has on others, resulting in increased self-confidence and self-efficacy – key drivers in developing well grounded, entrepreneurial people for the future.
However, it would be a mistake to think that developing entrepreneurial thinking and behaviour begins and ends within education. Rather, the introduction of such self-reflection techniques and openness to feedback should be understood by students as a continuous process which should be viewed as a learning philosophy to be applied throughout their career whether that be as an entrepreneur or as part of an entrepreneurial workforce.
Enterprise and entrepreneurial development does not stop when an individual graduates from University; it is merely the end of one chapter and the opening of another.
Author: Nicola Patterson, Northumbria University