Ibec has called for teachers to be trained in “entrepreneurial thinking” so it can be introduced at the earliest stage in young people’s schooling.
In a policy document on entrepreneurship in education, the employers’ group has said the concept should be made mainstream at primary, secondary and third level “to deliver the skills needed for the workplace of the future”.
However, it stresses that entrepreneurship should not be viewed solely from “an economic perspective” as it has applications for society and culture.
“The infusion of entrepreneurial thinking into the non-business disciplines such as arts, humanities and science, and at primary and secondary school level, is critical.”
The organisation has made 17 recommendations, including that higher education institutions should reward and accredit students who participate in extra curricular entrepreneurial projects.
Also, the Department of Education and Skills is urged to develop and expand "adopt a school" projects with businesses.
The most eye-catching recommendation, however, is to embed entrepreneurial thinking in all teacher training programmes.
This “would enable teachers to understand the distinction between entrepreneurship and entrepreneurial thinking and how it supports education”, Ibec says.
“Teachers should be encouraged and rewarded for engaging with and developing links outside their institutions with local business and social enterprises to enhance the experiential learning opportunities for students.”
“To support this, teachers also need to possess a range of competency related to creativity and entrepreneurship and to work in a supportive school environment where this is activity is encouraged and mistakes can be viewed as a learning opportunity.”
Junior cycle reforms
Ibec says the planned junior cycle reforms are a step in the right direction but notes the department must ensure they are properly resourced to meet their objectives.
“Eventually, this approach should be extended to the Leaving Certificate with the introduction of multiple methods of assessment which go beyond the tradition examination,” says Dr Kara McGann, Ibec’s senior labour market policy executive.
In defining entrepreneurship, Ibec quotes from educational research in Denmark, where schools have embraced the concept:
“Entrepreneurship is when you act upon opportunities and ideas and transform them into value for others. The value that is created can be financial, cultural or social.”
This model is also promoted by Finnish educationalist Pasi Sahlberg who told department officials at a recent policy seminar in Dublin: "We still educate children with the mindset that there is a job for you; another option is to think 'create a job for yourself'."
Ibec cites the recent National Employers Survey which indicated a low degree of employer satisfaction with graduates' entrepreneurial skills and business acumen.
“This result must trigger a policy response to improve the entrepreneurial mindset and skills amongst graduates.
“We aim to change the thinking around entrepreneurship for young people, to view it as a culture, a philosophy, a permanent theme in education rather than a stand alone subject.”
It notes: “ More than half of Irish universities and institutes of technology have institute-wide policies and plans to assist with the development of entrepreneurial behaviours, skills, experiences and mind-sets. However, entrepreneurship education remains fragmented, if prolific.”
A review in 2011 found there were 44 entrepreneurship education awards in third -level institutions and 416 courses with credit-bearing entrepreneurship modules. “However in the main, particularly at third- level, entrepreneurship programmes are not available to students of non-business programmes.”
As for primary and secondary level, it highlights a number of projects that can be used as a platform further growth, including Bizworld Ireland, the Junior Entrepreneur Programme, Gaisce's The President's award and Young Social Innovators.