CELEBRATE | September 26, 2019

Interview// Grigore Belostecinic: Entrepreneurial education - what’s next?

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Grigore Belostecinic is the dean of the Academy of Economic Studies of Moldova (ASEM). Together with ASEM and his direct support, GEN Moldova has held global events at the national level. Thus, in 2013, the first edition of the Global Entrepreneurship Week (GEW) campaign was launched. GEW established collaboration with ASEM, which resulted in the organization of annual global campaigns, events for the development of the national entrepreneurial ecosystem, and initiatives for promoting entrepreneurial spirit among young people through competitions (Deca Idea Challenge), workshops (YOUiACT), Entrepreneurial Engagement among youth, ENABLE entrepreneurial communities, and other small scale events. 

How does ASEM support entrepreneurial education and formation?

Grigore Belostecinic: It is known that 5% of the population are born with entrepreneurial skills. Most of them need to develop the aptitude and, maybe, among those that walk into ASEM, there is the next Steve Jobs or Elon Musk.

Considering that ASEM has an economic profile, the institution commits itself to raise entrepreneurial literacy among students but also among the overall population in the country and abroad. In this context, every ASEM student has access to an entrepreneurial education course regardless of major, along with courses that contribute to the formation of entrepreneurial skills in our students. Whatever they choose in their subsequent career, they will need to sell their work to other companies, they will set up their business, and these skills are essential for young professionals in the new era of business.

Also, ASEM has been involved since its founding (1991) in promoting entrepreneurship education among the population of the Republic of Moldova. At the beginning of the 90's, the problem was a very complicated one. We came from another system, where business is not discussed and entrepreneurial skills were not valued in any form.

We jump-started the topic by creating the first Continuous Training Center in the field of small business support in the Republic of Moldova with the name of "Moldovan-American Center for Private Initiative," which was launched in 1992-1993 within ASEM, being initially involved in the organization of lifelong learning courses, entrepreneurship skills, and education surrounding the development of business plans.

The center was opened together with the American University of Omaha with the financial support of the Eurasia Foundation in the United States of America, and a large number of ASEM employees benefited from its services. The Center has functioned continuously for 27 years.

Other, similar entities appeared along the way. Currently, several internal structures of our institution are involved in the formation of entrepreneurial skills, either in the field of accounting, finance, public affairs, business language training, and so on.

In keeping up with contemporary realities, we opened two business incubators at ASEM.  Students can start their own businesses and, following graduation, they become job creators rather than seeking employment themselves.  We mention here that some of the companies that went through the Business Incubators have achieved very good results and have established themselves continuing their business activity after exiting both the university and the Lab. 

It is worth mentioning that it is the only Business Incubator that serves irrespective of prevailing circumstances. The idea came to me in 1996, while on a service trip to Poland, I had the opportunity to see some classic incubators. Returning home, I decided to provide more space, to provide good conditions for students who want to experiment with business development. We are proud that the Incubator has survived over time, given that many Business Incubators from the Republic of Moldova that were inaugurated and developed with external financial support disappeared after external financing dried up. ASEM takes pride in having a functional incubator that works for the benefit of job creation. A large number of students had the opportunity to field test their entrepreneurial skills by starting a real business, not just for the sake of idea generation. To become a resident, the student needs to participate in a business competition and go through a process of evaluation by specialists in the chosen field. We were able to involve people from the business sphere in the coordination of the Business Incubator. 

Our residents are oriented towards offering services: marketing, website development, accounting and so on. However, we also have companies that are involved in production: organizing events and making flower bouquets, producing invitations. Some residents have opened a business in the field of fruit and vegetable farming and exportation.

We cannot neglect more informal events and programs that celebrate entrepreneurial skills and test them out. Every year, ASEM organizes the Miss ASEM - Future Business Women pageant. Besides its beauty component, there is a strong focus on entrepreneurial skills, business planning, and marketing.

We are currently in the stage of developing and promoting a new innovative incubator in ASEM: IT4BA - Information Technology for Business Applications, where we are trying to create a platform where ASEM students can interact with representatives of entrepreneurship in the field of information technology. 

How did the mindset of young people change when it comes to entrepreneurship? How has the perception of entrepreneurs changed?

Grigore Belostecinic: Any intention to develop entrepreneurial skills in the Soviet era was interpreted as careerism and, given its negative connotation at that time, it was not well-regarded. Since 1991, when ASEM was founded, we had to deliberately seek self-training or take different courses in several European states to learn and practice entrepreneurial skills. Since most of the population at that time had high hopes, but little knowledge in the field of entrepreneurship, they were not so selective in their educational requirements, and we were under less pressure as a result.

Times have changed a lot. Already, much more concrete knowledge is required than general themes, such as "Let's make a business plan!" or some elementary analysis. We have tough competition in the market, and those who have more knowledge, perseverance, and a desire for high-quality development will survive.

What was lost? Students lost their compelling and inquisitive enthusiasm. These days, they are much more pragmatic. Companies providing these services have entered the market. Private/commercial entities have appeared, which organize thematic training courses. In this situation, we started to operate in a more competitive environment. And we adjust to be the best!

How does ASEM cooperate with other entrepreneurial development networks? And, in particular, with GEN Moldova? 

Grigore Belostecinic: ASEM is not only involved in organizing activities within our institution. We have developed productive collaborations with several partners from outside ASEM, including NGOs that support this objective in the Republic of Moldova. These partners work both with students and with the general public.

We kicked off with the Association of Young Managers that organized Business Plan competitions for several among young people, and they were awarded with monetary prizes.

For about 17 years, ASEM has been actively involved in the organization of the Republican Olympics in the economy, together with Junior Achievement Moldova, through which we promote entrepreneurial skills among grade school students.

We are also involved in developing the curriculum of economic education at the university level and in training grade school teachers who teach economic and business-related courses.

Together with GEN Moldova, we involve students, teachers, and entrepreneurs in the events we have been organizing since 2013, when GEW was launched. During the course, we "diversified" our collaboration portfolio and jointly offered to ASEM students the opportunity to test the forces in the global DECA Idea Challenge competition, and the results were incredible. ASEM students were among the global finalists with their business ideas.

Also, we managed to mobilize our students and the general public under the broad umbrella of entrepreneurship and business development. It is important that we were able to offer them a global perspective, translated at the national level, through campaigns, competitions, and joint projects.

Plans and ideas for 2019-2020?

Grigore Belostecinic: We planned out some interesting activities for the new academic year, among which is a business ideas contest with many incentives, along with several initiatives involving the incubator, Republican Olympics, and additional joint ventures with JA and GEN Moldova.

GEN Moldova is an association that aims to develop the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Republic of Moldova through developing entrepreneurial spirit… About the author