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Monday, 13 May 2013 09:24

Business and Education: Powerful Social Innovation Partners

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ILO's KAB team is part of the European Action Group on Entrepreneurship Education.

Here's the most recent blog from one of the members, JA. Enjoy!

By Caroline Jenner

Fostering entrepreneurship education and social innovation skills in schools improves youth employment prospects.

Since the global economic recession began in 2008, countless headlines have warned that the younger generation—those just leaving school and looking for their first real work experience—will be the hardest hit. This is certainly true in the short term, as lack of job options force students to take jobs below their skill levels. But there are also long-term repercussions, as an early period of joblessness can affect a person’s earnings and employability for life.

Some of the challenges this younger generation faces are systemic—lack of teacher training in entrepreneurial learning methods, limited access to education for 21st-century skills in schools, the need to modernize vocational training, etc.—and there are countless debates on how to tackle those issues. But in my career as an entrepreneur and educator, I have noted a number of missed educational opportunities that schools and teachers could implement immediately, with minimal effort or expense, to improve lives and employment options for these students.


One of the lowest-cost, highest-return investments we can make to improve youth employment prospects is to instil entrepreneurial skills and corporate citizenship values in students while they are still in school, supplementing the standard curriculum of math, science, history, and literature with practical classes that focus specifically on entrepreneurship and social innovation.

Researchers in Norway and Sweden created control groups of individuals who match the target group in number, background, and age—the only important differentiating factor is participation in entrepreneurship education. In the Norwegian survey, the study showed that there are 50 percent more start-ups among former students than members of the control group. Also, 12 percent of participants established their own businesses by age 25, compared to 8 percent of the control group.

Moreover, the students involved in these kinds of programs are 4-5 times more likely to apply ethics and CSR values (corporate social responsibility) to their business models. They have an easier time securing a job than their peers and typically earn higher salaries. Overall, they show higher levels of self-confidence than their peers.

In times of tight resources, one of the best options for making such improvements in education is to build public-private partnerships, channelling resources from governments, ministries of education, and the private sector to train teachers and engage the expertise of practitioners and local networks. Large numbers of small, medium and large businesses all over Europe are stepping up and engaging their own human capital and financial resources in support of entrepreneurship education and social innovation. There is tremendous good practice out there and it is helping ease young people’s transition from school to career. One of the factors driving the long-term positive impact of entrepreneurship education is this kind of real world engagement from the community.

Through programs like these, governments  (through supportive policies in the school system and teacher training) and business communities (through engaging employees and global networks) have co-invested in entrepreneurship and social innovation education, and supported strong school-to-work schemes—and they are achieving great results in the fight against youth unemployment. The cost per student is modest, yet entrepreneurship education and fostering social innovation go on to generate far greater value in terms of skills development and significant economic returns, as they foster new businesses, increase employability, and reduce state social costs. A recent report from the European Round Table of Industrialists, “Attitudes to Work,” states, “A shift in attitude towards a more entrepreneurial approach to work in which people seize opportunities to demonstrate their talents would benefit public and private sectors and would contribute significantly to continued prosperity.”

Let’s invest more in tried-and-tested public-private partnerships that deliver local impact—the ones that provide educators with what they need to be successful and that increase the number of young people’s success stories. This is what will drive the sea change we need to see in schools. Others will see their achievements and want to be a part of it.

Caroline Jenner is the CEO of JA-YE Europe and Senior Vice President at JA Worldwide. She is a regular speaker, panellist, and contributor on entrepreneurship education.

Updated: 30.04.13 14:17

Additional Info

  • Document Type: Promotional
  • Thematic Area: Entrepreneurship Education
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