The importance of entrepreneurial mindset in classrooms

student with entrepreneurial mentality

Although technological leaders insist on the development of digital skills, one report points out that most employers see a deficit in entrepreneurship competencies among college graduates.

Image: Bigstock

A recent report highlights the importance that employers give to the entrepreneurial mindset of university graduates and points out that, at least in the United States, this characteristic is increasingly scarce when hiring.

Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, states that learning to code is as vital for anyone as learning English as a second language. Microsoft's Bill Gates emphasizes that Computer Science is essential if students want to succeed in their careers. This type of discourse generates a questioning: are these skills the only recourse to guarantee a graduate's success in unstable work environments that lie ahead?

The need for future experts to shape AI developments or create cyber-security solutions is obvious. However, coding languages will expire or be replaced, and new technologies will generate challenges never before faced.

Consequently, it is also essential to learn throughout life, as well as to develop an entrepreneurial mindset; there is a need for students to learn how to recognize an opportunity that is otherwise overlooked, to gain confidence when assuming risks, to communicate their ideas clearly, to adapt to unstable environments and to learn from their mistakes.

The eight pillars of the entrepreneurial mindset

The report "Measuring Entrepreneurial Mindset In Youth: Learnings From the NFTE's Entrepreneurial Mindset Index," emphasizes the potential of teaching entrepreneurship skills in the future of university students. It also recognizes that there are few entrepreneurs in the US labor force, which threatens the economic development of that nation.

To address this gap, specialists from a nonprofit organization that promotes the teaching of entrepreneurship, Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE), propose a framework based on eight pillars to instill these skills in the classroom:

  • Initiative and self-reliance: the power to appropriate a project without guidance and face obstacles independently.

  • Flexibility and adaptability: the ability to change actions and plans to overcome present and future challenges.

  • Communication and collaboration: the ability to express ideas in a clear manner to a target audience, including persuasion to work collectively towards a common goal.

  • Creativity and innovation: the ability to create solutions to problems without clearly defined structures.

  • Critical thinking and problem solving: the ability to apply a thought oriented to higher level processes, to examine a challenge from a range of possible perspectives and use that reasoning to make decisions.

  • Orientation towards the future: an optimistic disposition with a focus on obtaining the skills and knowledge necessary for the transition to a career.

  • Recognition of opportunities: the practice of seeing and experiencing problems as opportunities to create solutions.

  • Comfort with risk: the capacity to make decisions in spite of the uncertainty and the inevitable challenges.

How to boost entrepreneurial skills in the classroom?

NFTE proposes its "Theory of Change," a four-step map that guides the development of entrepreneurial skills and student success.

  1. Entrepreneurial education

    This educational program proposes the instruction of the creation of companies, generation of business ideas, creation of business plans and presentation of projects, through experiential learning and project-based education.

    Thus students learn the basics of business conception and entrepreneurship, with a strong focus on experiential activities. This includes games, short projects, and lessons that provide students with practical experiences and teach them concepts such as recognizing opportunities, generating profits and marketing.

    Students also gain real-world experience working closely with volunteers and mentors who are often business leaders in their community. These interactions help students take the abstract concepts they are learning in the classroom and see how they work in the real world.

  2. Activation of the entrepreneurial mindset

    It is expected that the above activities will help students develop their entrepreneurial mindset. This is strengthened by the teaching of development of business plans presented to the class before students and before boards in competitions.

  3. Entrepreneurial attitudes and behaviors

    Once the students develop the entrepreneurial mindset, changes in attitudes and behavior arise, including the promotion of a more positive disposition towards the creation of companies and the entrepreneurial spirit.

  4. Entrepreneurial Actualization and Career Success

    Finally, changes in students' attitudes and behaviors are expected to support their ability to start their own business or demonstrate professional success in different work environments.

Previous NFTE research suggests that students who have participated in these types of programs are more likely than others to become business owners. On the other hand, they have had a much better adaptation to different kinds of work environments.

While it is imperative to learn to shape technology from primary stages in education, these digital competencies need to be complemented by powerful skills such as those proposed by the NFTE and their conception of the entrepreneurial mindset.