I entered the world of Youth Entrepreneurship Education in 2006. Throughout my professional career as a counsellor, a corporate consultant/mentor and coach, a business owner and a parent, I often wondered why our state education system does not facilitate entrepreneurship as a core subject. In all of the youngsters that I have worked with since then, I have found within them, an entrepreneurial spirit. A spirit of adventure, of creativity, of fun, of willingness to take risks. All of them have had an interest, a talent, or a passion for something.
But this spirit and these interests, instead of being fostered, are being left untapped. The myth that entrepreneurship is something you are born with and cannot be learned still lives on in many minds. And yet, the experience of entrepreneurship teaches life and work skills simultaneously and most importantly it harnesses passion. In today’s high tech world starting up a small business has never been more feasible and learning ‘how to’, based on something for which you have a passion, can be an inspirational process for young people. If you nurture and follow a young person’s spirit and their passions and interests while they are in school - all the other things that entrepreneurship comprises can be taught, by which time they are so engaged in the spirit of their venture that they actually want to learn more!
Capturing a desire to learn by making learning a fun and engaging process about topics that are relevant to a young person’s world has always struck me as an obvious way to go about educating our young people. Teaching entrepreneurship to young people through a practical, physical, emotional and intellectual approach fulfils all of those criteria, and even more importantly it informs them about and provides them with an additional career option.
Attitude One of the main criteria for successful entrepreneurship is ‘attitude’. Positive attitudes such as ‘I can’. But adult negative attitudes held about the principle of ‘learning entrepreneurship’ are afflicting our young people too and particularly those who come from disadvantaged backgrounds, where many of these youngsters’ attitudes are entrenched in the belief that ‘I could never start up a business even if I wanted to, I wouldn’t know where to start’. It’s just not on their radar screen. There is no reason whatsoever that because a parent wasn’t an entrepreneur, their child cannot be either. Research tells us this is often the case but it does not have to be so, we should be working to redress this. We call this an issue of social mobility but in fact it’s just education. We should be educating our youth emotionally and attitudinally, as well as academically. Attitudes can be impacted upon by a willingness to adapt behaviour. Any good coach will tell you that.
The experience of entrepreneurship can facilitate learning in: people management, negotiation and feedback skills, effective communication, work ethic, accountability, responsibility, finance/money management, leadership and so much more.
With this mind-set as a backdrop, in 2006 I began on a mission: to waken the entrepreneurial spirit that is within young people, to open their minds and support them, through coaching, and mentoring to channel their passions and interests into a small money-making idea of their own that follows their interests. We would run a course in schools and see what percentage of the young people might actually be more interested in the idea of entrepreneurship afterwards.
We designed a 4-day course With a background in experiential learning program design, and being a football fan I had always wanted to weave the ‘beautiful game’ into my work and so with the support and backing of my partner, Tony Woodcock (former England international footballer), we designed a four day course to do just that, using the game of football as the learning medium, another vehicle through which so many of life and work/business subjects can be learned. Our focus was 13-19 year olds, inner city youth from disadvantaged backgrounds. The topics of learning were Youth Entrepreneurship, Business Idea Generation, Business Finance & Money Management, Teamship & Leadership, Stress Management & Personal Development. We set off on an entrepreneurial adventure into the unknown.
Mining Entrepreneurship in our Youth We called the course ‘Tsu’Chu Biz’. The earliest known game of football - Tsu’chu - was played in ancient China 2500 years ago and so the four day course begins with a potted history and geography lesson of all the places around the world where the game was originally played, how it has developed and changed over time, how it has moved from a hobby to a profession to a global business and now to becoming a professor! The underpinning principle of the course is to ‘work at what you love’ and our first endeavour on Day 1 is to help our youngsters discover what that is for them. Then with trained professional coaches and mentors to help them identify a small money-making idea based on their interests and passions they begin a four day journey of learning as we MINE youth entrepreneurship. Mentoring, Inspiring, Nurturing and Empowering.