Michigan 4-H Youth Development can help build an entrepreneurship education program

Because of the connection to real life, youth entrepreneurship education program experiences will assist youth in developing the skills necessary for the jobs of the future.

The American job market is shifting and youth need to be prepared. Not only will they need the traditional skills of reading, writing and math to thrive in the future, but they will also need to be technologically savvy and self-directed. According to Michigan State University Extension, with the pace of innovation many of the jobs our children will hold don’t even exist yet.  There is a need to educate students to be continual learners and provide them with the skills, knowledge and tools needed to start their own ventures. This will assist in creating innovative entrepreneurs, managers and employees of the future armed with the necessary skills to be successful and productive. A background paper on youth entrepreneurship regarding theory, practice and field development of youth entrepreneurship published by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation cited three principal trends which youth entrepreneurship education can address (2006).

  1. The failure of traditional education experiences to connect youth with real life experiences and the lack of engagement that accompanies these experiences.
  2. The changing nature of work as the core element of the industrial economy.
  3. The potential for entrepreneurial attributes and skills to be enhanced through classroom learning and learning outside the traditional classroom in experiential learning environments.

The authors further hypothesize and cite evidence for the following:

  • Entrepreneurs are a vital component to the economy accounting for the majority of job growth.
  • The changing nature of work necessitates the presence of entrepreneurial skills and attributes in the workplace.
  • There is a correlation between dropout rates and lack of challenge, or connection, to real life experiences in the current education system.
  • There is evidence that youth exhibit a strong desire to become entrepreneurs.
  • The field of youth entrepreneurship is ripe for investment.

The Aspen Youth Entrepreneurship Strategy Group indicates preparing youth for this new job market will require a host of different solutions that better engage young people in their education, while also building stronger connections between communities, businesses and schools. Youth entrepreneurship education programs can provide these skills by introducing real world experiences; Michigan 4-H Youth Development programs can facilitate the connections.

In their action guide for policy makers, the Aspen Youth Entrepreneurship Strategy Group establishes their belief that expanding the availability of youth entrepreneurship education resources needs to be a critical part of the solution. They state, “an entrepreneurial mindset — a critical mix of success-oriented attitudes of initiative, intelligent risk-taking, collaboration and opportunity recognition — is the missing ingredient.”

According to the Aspen Youth Entrepreneurship Strategy Group, youth entrepreneurship education programs are in place in some communities, but most American youth have little or no access to such training. However, the climate for youth entrepreneurship education is changing. The 2012 Gallup-HOPE Index found the majority of students, 59 percent, agree their school offers classes in how to start and run a business. This is an increase from 2011 in which half indicated their school offers such classes.

Policymakers and communities can continue to remedy this situation by making a major commitment to expanding the availability of youth entrepreneurship education programs. These programs have a proven track record of keeping children in school, and providing them with the skills, knowledge and tools needed to start their own ventures. This, once again will help in creating innovative entrepreneurs, managers and employees.  

The Michigan 4-H Youth Development page for Entrepreneurship is a great way to explore the resources MSU Extension has to offer in implementing a youth entrepreneurship education program.  Some of these include Be the “E” National 4-H Curriculum, and Going Solo Virtual  Entrepreneurship Curriculum.This site also provides direct links to other great youth entrepreneurship education resources and partner programs like Generation E . The MSU Extension expert search can also help you locate 4-H Youth Development staff members in your area who are willing and able to assist you in your pursuit of entrepreneurship education program development.

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