Do Kids Imagine Themselves as Entrepreneurs?
17 Nov 2015

Building entrepreneurial communities starts with teaching youth the entrepreneurial mindset. And it’s not just about innovation.

Have you heard about the invention by 18-year-old Crystal Sanchez, a Guardian Locket necklace that allows women in danger to send a stealth signal to police and emergency contacts?

Crystal created Guardian Locket during a high-school course run by my organization, Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE). Her success reminds us that teaching more youth the entrepreneurial mindset is a moral imperative. If we don’t teach young people the skills and attitudes that will empower them to have ideas and execute on those ideas, they miss out and the world misses out.

So how can we hasten the spread of the entrepreneurial mindset to youth from all walks of life around the world? Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE) recently gathered educators and policy makers around this very question. Their top five recommendations—to everyone—for moving the needle on this issue:

  1. Be vocal with your local city leadership. Cities play a key role in creating environments where youth can learn entrepreneurial skills, from creating new spaces and mechanisms for collaboration to funding innovative community colleges.
  2. Support teacher creativity and innovative school models in your community. Creatively designed schools such as the BioTech conservation biology high school and the DASH Design and Architecture Senior High School in Miami are two of the highest performing schools in one of the highest performing districts in the United States—because students are passionate about their work there, and they grow to become top performers. Case in point, DASH has no admissions requirements.
  3. Offer meaningful internships. Students cite internships where they led projects as one of the most motivating and valuable learning experiences they ever had. Every business, company, and corporation should be looking to create more of these opportunities in their local communities.
  4. Give young people the opportunity to define goals for themselves. We need to create ecosystems that make this possible—at home, at school, and recreationally.
  5. Remember innovation isn’t the only king. Innovation is key, but many other entrepreneurial skills are also necessary to cultivate an entrepreneurial citizenry—such as problem solving, communication, and comfort with risk. When working with youth, and when training employees, we should devote resources and attention to cultivating these skills as well as innovation.

As CEO of NFTE, I am excited about developing a measure for the entrepreneurial mindset and believe that having the ability to measure progress on entrepreneurial skills will allow schools to prioritize them. NFTE is currently working with Educational Testing Service (ETS) to develop such a measure.

In celebration of Global Entrepreneurship Week, NFTE is delighted to host an activity that is a first exposure to entrepreneurial thinking and to NFTE’s pathway of entrepreneurship programs: World Series of Innovation, open to anyone age 14–24. Global brands such as Coca-Cola, Microsoft, GoDaddy, IFRC, Pitney Bowes, and Microsoft pose challenges. Thousands of young thinkers pitch solutions for the chance to win $2,500 and to exercise their creative, problem solving, and business-opportunity-identifying muscles.

What else can we do to activate the entrepreneurial mindset in youth? What else can you do? Please share your stories of success—it breeds more success! 

Photo Credit: Flickr

Shawn Osborne

President and CEO of Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship | NFTE

Shawn Osborne is the President and CEO of the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE) – which teaches the entrepreneurial mindset to young… More