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Developing entrepreneurial competence in young people

Why learning to be entrepreneurial is more necessary than ever in times of pandemic

Esade Entrepreneurship Institute

For three years, professor Marcel Planellas has coordinated an Esade Entrepreneurship Institute project to promote entrepreneurial competence among secondary school students with the Ministry of Education of the Government of Andorra.

Last November, Planellas participated, as an invited expert, in the 27th Ibero-American Conference of Ministers of Education. In its final declaration, the conference stated the need to "promote new learning models that include entrepreneurship and innovation in an integrated and comprehensive manner."

A few days ago, in the journal Cuadernos de Pedagogía, Planellas coordinated a special issue on entrepreneurship where he wrote an article defending the need to train students in entrepreneurial competence and defining a comprehensive seven-dimensional model to develop this competence.

He believes that the pandemic marks a turning point and that the impact of Covid-19 will bring about many changes in the education community – which will have the obligation and opportunity to reorder its priorities.

If we want to prepare young people for the future, then entrepreneurial skills are essential

"The education system had to urgently adapt to the new reality and move from face-to-face teaching to a remote system in record time. We are now trying to understand what happened and think about future scenarios," wrote Marcel Planellas in a special feature on entrepreneurship in Cuadernos de Pedagogía.

The coronavirus crisis has highlighted the urgent need to review teaching processes and learning objectives.

"Faced with an uncertain future, one of the great challenges for the education system is to train young people to be resilient and take the initiative. Young people must learn to adapt to change with agility and be able to innovate and gather the resources needed to make their projects a reality," explains Planellas. "If we want to prepare our young people for the future, then entrepreneurial skills are essential. Learning to be an entrepreneur is more necessary than ever in these times of uncertainty."

Covid-19 teaching
The coronavirus crisis has highlighted the urgent need to review teaching processes and learning objectives (Photo: Bojanikus/Getty Images)

As a result of his experience in the university world and his accompaniment of entrepreneurial projects, Planellas proposes an integral model that includes seven dimensions to develop entrepreneurial competence. The dimensions range from the level of the person (self-confidence, values, and creativity), to the team (relational capacity), and other specific dimensions such as the environment (recognition of opportunities, organisation, and implementation).

1. An entrepreneurial outlook

The coronavirus crisis has dispelled some myths, such as that entrepreneurs are born and not made. Entrepreneurship today is seen as a skill that can be taught and learnt.

Although the popular news media still highlights good fortune rather than knowledge, examples such as Stay Homas (a group of musicians who have succeeded by performing on a roof during the quarantine), show that entrepreneurs are made. All the members of Stay Homas have studied music, play various instruments, and play in professional groups.

The coronavirus crisis has dispelled some myths, such as that entrepreneurs are born and not made

"In the area of personal domain, entrepreneurial ability helps young people face real challenges, acquire a conscious perception of their strengths and weaknesses, and develop self-knowledge," says Planellas.

Developing the ability to overcome failure is also part of an entrepreneurial outlook. "Failure is inseparable from success, and it is often forgotten that solid successes follow from the lessons learnt in failure."

2. Values and ethical commitment

This dimension of entrepreneurial skill, says Planellas, "must enable students to think about challenges that go beyond their particular interest and identify new social, environmental, cultural, technological, scientific, and solidarity needs in their environment."

"Young people need to be aware that in the business world not everything is valid to achieve the hoped-for result. Students must learn to assess the impact that their projects will have on the local environment. Specific and immediate results matter, and the long-term consequences on the social and environmental environment must also be considered," writes Planellas.

3. Creative thinking

Creativity is not a quality exclusive to great geniuses. Creativity also arises when somebody has the ability to see opportunities where others see problems – and invent solutions to challenges.

"Creativity is a faculty of any human being. It is the thought that enables us to have new visions and ways of understanding things. Creativity can be learnt, and activities and projects can be excellent educational laboratories," says Planellas.

Creative dancer
Creativity is not a quality exclusive to great geniuses (Photo: Sarvaswa Tandon/Unsplash)

Another fundamental aspect of creative thinking is curiosity. This is not just a tool for capturing knowledge, but it is a human need to observe and ask questions. According to Planellas, this urge to ask questions becomes an essential ability to improve creativity: "The Covid-19 crisis is an excellent opportunity for young people to look for new interrelations among the challenges we face”. 

Mastery of this dimension can help students develop the ability to generate ideas that are original and feasible.

4. Ability to contact and influence people

Learning to work with people who have different points of view, and understanding how to collaborate and achieve solutions that are better than the individual proposals are crucial skills for professional and personal life.

This dimension encompasses skills such as active listening, empathy, assertiveness, understanding of non-verbal communication, and fluency in expressing ideas.

Another skill that is also part of this dimension is the ability to exercise responsible leadership by creating a level of trust, commitment, and collaboration among team members that enables a project to be successfully finished.

At an external level, the capacity to influence can be learnt through certain social skills, such as knowing how to communicate through various channels and digital media to publicise a project, or knowing how to negotiate and reach agreements to mobilise the necessary resources.

5. Recognition of opportunities

To undertake a new project, it is necessary to detect an opportunity – and this is a special skill. According to Planellas, when faced with the same situation, some people see a problem where others see an opportunity: "In our society, the ability to diagnose problems is more developed than the ability to detect opportunities."

Recognising opportunities, says Planellas, is a skill that can be learnt and requires a certain state of alertness.

"After scanning the environment and detecting opportunities, the next stage is to analyse and evaluate the options. It is important to do this at different moments, while trying to defer judgment and so avoid killing ideas at birth."

When faced with the same situation, some people see a problem where others see an opportunity

To work on the ability to evaluate new projects, young people can apply several variables: from social utility to economic viability, resource needs, or growth potential. The aim is to identify opportunities that can be turned into projects that add value.

6. Organisation and planning

One of the essential dimensions of entrepreneurial skill is the ability to plan and organise the activities needed to turn a project into reality.

“Working on the ability to turn ideas into specific and realistic action plans, planning the actions needed to make them a reality, and improving organisational capacity will help young people become more independent and enhance their ability to manage time and resources."

According to Planellas, the external presentation of a well-developed plan gives interlocutors confidence that the entrepreneur has sufficient organisational capacity and also gives the perception that all parts of the project have been considered.

7. Implementation and execution

It is in this final entrepreneurial dimension that a plan is implemented: transforming an idea into a project. This is the moment to compare the hypotheses with reality and check if the organisation works properly.

"It's about learning from errors and making the necessary changes. It is entirely normal that forecasts are too optimistic and reality forces us to readjust time and resources," warns Planellas.

One of the essential dimensions of entrepreneurial skill is the ability to plan and organise the activities needed to turn a project into reality

University students will see this entrepreneurial dimension as a bridge that brings them closer to the professional reality waiting for them at the end of their studies.

"Students must work on management skills and challenges and this brings them closer to the real world of organisations," says Planellas. For example, they must develop skills that enable them to solve problems arising from the day-to-day management of a project, optimise their resources, monitor project variables, make decisions about the risk they are prepared to accept, and mobilise resources to cover emerging needs.

An opportunity to reinvent education

The Covid-19 crisis is changing the education system and the way we teach the next generations. "Encouraging entrepreneurship in the classroom is a necessary and exciting opportunity that requires the consensus and cooperation of everyone involved in the education system. Educating in entrepreneurship is a commitment to the future. Change and entrepreneurship is possible," concludes Planellas.

Article based on academic reflections by Marcel Planellas in Cuadernos de Pedagogía.

All written content is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license.