“The true entrepreneur is a doer, not a dreamer.”
In questioning young graduates in Nigeria and Benin republic in West Africa about their lives, hopes, and challenges, two things stood out.
First, 85% of fresh graduates state that finding a job is the biggest challenge faced by their generation.
Second, when asked about the greatest challenge they deal with when looking for a job, majority (51%) mentioned the preference for candidates with work experience by most employers, which they lacked as fresh graduates.
This is a classic catch-22. Which should come first, the job or the experience?
What will work for our young graduates is a solid, entrepreneurship-style education that prepares young people productively. Education that empowers them with useful knowledge and skills to become employable; quickly be productive when hired; and to even start their own businesses if they want to.
The benefits of an entrepreneurship-style education go beyond making them more employable, but gives them options to be self employed also. As many economic parameters depict world wide; entrepreneurship is the surest way of development, directly affecting job creation, GDP growth, and increases in long-term productivity.
There are variety of ways in which government and academic institutions should craft entrepreneurship curriculums and develop educational system that involve both theory and practice. Today, hands-on training is a necessary part of learning. In fact, the two are not mutually exclusive.
the main challenges entrepreneurs face are ‘procuring the finances to start’ (according to 56%); ‘hiring the wrong people’ (41%); and the ‘uncertainty of profit/ income’ (35%).
This suggests that theoretical entrepreneurship education needs to address investment and finance basics, like how to get funds; team management and HR strategies; as well as constructive thinking and how to deal with a challenging market. Also, students will gain a lot from taking classes geared towards improving interpersonal and soft skills, which can’t be learned with traditional education.
Finding candidates for senior positions with the required skills is difficult, with ‘soft skills’ regarded as most lacking, as opposed to ‘technical skills.’ Specifically, employers say that the skills most senior, older, candidates lack are ‘creative thinking’ (63%), ‘critical thinking and problem solving’ (63%), as well as ‘adaptability/managing multiple priorities’ (60%).
These problems are not surprising. With overcrowded public schools and really young populations, students are graduating with little ability to think for themselves, instead focusing on regurgitating curricula. Teaching entrepreneurship basics (like strategies for idea generation, risk management, and translating problems into opportunities) would be one way to tackle this problem.
Such a step would progress in the right direction, but by itself would be insufficient. The other side of the coin would be on-the-ground training, whether in the form of internships, mentorships, on-the-job training, or coaching.
Everything is in flux these days, in the past, an impressive academic background would’ve been enough, but not in this day and age. Hands on experience is a must have now for kick starting one’s career. Today, governments and educational institutions must also involve the private sector in the education-study ecosystem reform.
To facilitate this paradigm, universities should reach out to industry leaders and companies to encourage them to place students in work-study programs that hone their interests, skills, and capabilities to produce a mutually beneficial experience.
Students would be better prepared for the real world through immersion in the workforce, which, in return, will help them choose the right path after graduation, entrepreneurial or otherwise.
Employers, on the other hand, would get the opportunity to vet talent, regularly and inexpensively. Top talent is hard to find and even harder to retain. Through this, companies to make long-lasting hires based on actual and real-life knowledge of someone’s talents and abilities.
Everyone benefits including the government, once they create the enabling environment that nurtures and sustains entrepreneurship and entrepreneurial education it would directly influence development by increasing job creation and productivity, which will lead to GDP growth and an adaptable economy.
Through creating a symbiotic relationship between them, the bright future we hope to foresee can become a reality. Entrepreneurship education and early involvement with the professional world need to be encouraged more. This will take the efforts of everyone and the time for us to do this is now. Let’s reinvent the wheel and get with the program.
Adetola Salau; Educator / Speaker / Author/ Entrepreneur
She is an Advocate of STEM Education and is Passionate about Education reform. She is an innovative thinker and strives for our society & continent as a whole to reclaim it’s greatness.