Fostering an Entrepreneurial Spirit in Youth

Can we teach our youth to be more entrepreneurial, as fewer young people are starting their own businesses than ever? There are educators and institutes who think we can and should. Traditional school settings have failed at this for two reasons. They emphasize training children to do shift or office work and don’t give children time to think creatively and experiment with their ideas. The other major problem children face in traditional school settings is that failure is seen as bad instead of a learning opportunity. We need to turn this idea around and let our children know that a mistake is a learning opportunity and how using it to refine an idea or approach is success.

One mistake cited by a professor at NYU and Stanford is that we have tried to teach entrepreneurship like it is a job when this is far from the truth. Many schools view start-ups as smaller versions of large companies but there are major differences. New businesses struggle with multiple unknowns that range from consumer acceptance of products to sources of funds to sustain growth. One of the methods forward thinking nonprofits and institutes are using now is complex role-playing where young adults take on the role of business owners and solve everyday problems to thrive in a competitive market. Students are also encouraged to talk to their potential consumers face to face before launching a product instead of relying on survey data compiled via mail or online sources. Another program has high schoolers work with actual business owners to solve real life business problems over a nine week period. Taking this idea one step further might be to have business owners serve as mentors by encouraging aspiring entrepreneurs to work with them, share their insights and impart a realistic view of this lifestyle. This type of experience will let a young adult learn if they wish to pursue life as a business owner or decide it is not for them; either outcome is correct when the decision is based on truth and experience.


The following is a list of organizations that work to foster entrepreneurship:

The Milstein Symposium – a panel focused on creating middle-class jobs through entrepreneurship.

Network for Teaching entrepreneurship – New York City nonprofit dedicated to reducing the school dropout rate by fostering entrepreneurship.

Junior Achievement USA – created in 1919 this organization works to help youth develop their skills into business opportunities.

Hawkin School – a private school in Cleveland working with high schoolers to create real life entrepreneur training.

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