Creating the next generation of entrepreneurs

Educating, mentoring and interning tomorrow’s entrepreneurs might be the key to job creation, economic growth and building sustainable community development.

Helping to create the next generation of entrepreneurs is a topic that is gaining momentum across the U.S. in academic institutions, government, businesses, non-profit and community settings. This is not surprising especially when the top concerns in American households are the economy, unemployment and jobs. In order to bolster our economy, we rely on entrepreneurs and small businesses. Small businesses employ about half of U.S. workers, generate 65 percent of net new jobs, and represent 99.7 percent of all employer firms.

Educating, mentoring, and interning tomorrow’s entrepreneurs might be the key to job creation, economic growth and building sustainable community development.

  • According to the Kauffman Foundation, young entrepreneurs continue to make up the highest percentage of total new entrepreneurship activity in 2011. Entrepreneurs in the 20 to 34 age group in the United States made up 29.4 percent of the total new entrepreneurship activity in 2011 as compared to only 22 percent for those aged 35 to 44 or 20.9 percent for those aged 55 to 64.
  • Research by the Center for Rural Entrepreneurship also indicates young people who participate in a mentoring relationship with practicing entrepreneurs and community members are more likely to either remain or return to that community after graduation.

Our young people continue to show interest in entrepreneurship but feel they need the education and experience that will help them prepare for this challenge. The following are just a few findings from the 2011 Gallup Student Poll where over 1700 students were interviewed nationally in grades 5 through 12.

  • Seventy-seven percent of the students indicated they want to be their own boss, 45 percent plan to start their own business and 42 percent feel they will invent something that changes the world.  
  • A high percentage of youth polled also showed entrepreneurial characteristics such as not being afraid to take risks even if they might fail (91 percent) and never giving up (85 percent).
  • Only half the students indicated their school offers classes in how to start and run a business.
  • Financial education is lacking in schools as well with only 54 percent of the youth polled indicating their school teaches about money and banking.
  • Additionally, students are finding it very difficult to gain practical work experience with 76 percent of high school students indicating they worked less than an hour for pay in the last week.

Michigan State University Extension has curriculum, workshops and tools available to community leaders, teachers, volunteers and other youth development professionals interested in inspiring youth to explore entrepreneurship. In addition, MSU product center counseling is available for individuals interested in developing or growing their businesses in agriculture, natural resources or bioeconomy sectors. This is the first article in a series that will focus on creating the next generation of entrepreneurs. Stay tuned for more information.

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