UL: An accelerated track to entrepreneurial career

Master’s students at Kemmy Business School at UL learn to develop their skills and competencies

Mon, Apr 14, 2014, 01:00

The University of Limerick Kemmy Business School’s master’s in international entrepreneurship management aims to provide students with an accelerated track to an entrepreneurial career by encouraging, facilitating and connecting aspiring entrepreneurs to achieve their entrepreneurial ambitions. It helps develop entrepreneurial skills and competencies with the objective of equipping students with skills in creative thinking; networking; opportunity recognition; market validation, resource leveraging and business planning.

Students also engage with the entrepreneur community, thereby extending learning beyond the classroom.

“First of all, we want to give students the confidence to say ‘that could be me’ when they are thinking about entrepreneurship,” says programme director Dr Briga Hynes.

“There is an assumption that entrepreneurs just emerge from nowhere and people don’t see the blood, sweat and tears that have gone into getting them to where they are. We need to demystify and dispel some of these attitudinal barriers to entrepreneurship.”

In this context, she believes that educators need to review and reconsider not only what is taught or the content of entrepreneurship programmes but more importantly, how it is taught and delivered to the meet targeted needs.

“Entrepreneurship education should be about building character – the entrepreneur, and capability – viable businesses, and programmes should be more directed to address the needs of the person by enhancing student motivation and self-belief through peer learning in addition to the acquisition of relevant and applied business knowledge.”

This applied business knowledge is largely gained through direct engagement with entrepreneurs. “We try to get the students to experience as closely as possible the lived world of the entrepreneur,” Hynes explains. “This very much underpins the ethos of the programme.”

This is achieved in a number of ways, primarily through bringing entrepreneurs in as guest speakers.

“We get great support from local entrepreneurs who come in to talk to the students. It works really well in a panel format where you have two or three businesspeople talking about their experiences. You get great energy in the room during those sessions. The choice of entrepreneur is very important as well. We try to get younger entrepreneurs whom the students can identify with more. That helps develop a connection between them.”

Another element of the programme sees the students working directly with local SMEs. “A key focus of the Kemmy Business School is reaching out to industry. Students work in teams to develop sales and marketing strategies for local SMEs. This is not just theory, they have to be practical strategies and that makes this element of the programme very valuable to the businesses as well as to the students. It bridges the gap between the classroom and real business. It also strengthens our links with industry – academic institutions are usually the last places they would come for help.”

Students also participate in a mentoring programme through the Irish Exporters Association’s (IEA) Asia Trade Forum Programme where they devise an international market entry strategy into an Asian market for a growing small firm. Mentors from the IEA and local firms such as Analog and Flextronics assist students in the completion of the assignment.

Critically important for many of the students is the completion of a commercialisation plan. This is an option which replaces the traditional thesis for master’s programmes and it sees students developing a two-year strategic commercialisation plan for a business to make it investor ready.