The value of teaching entrepreneurship to young people

Several times a year, we are fortunate to have groups of young people tour the Akron Global Business Accelerator to learn about entrepreneurship and the exciting innovation happening in our program.

These middle school, high school and college students are curious. They ask questions. They are excited. They are engaged in what is going on around them. And, they are part of a growing trend of specialized entrepreneurship programs, clubs or electives that are offered by their schools.

Not all of these students will become entrepreneurs in their lifetime. In fact, it is likely that less than 1 percent ever will. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be pulling young people into our entrepreneurial circle.

Provide valuable lessons

These programs provide students with a space to think broadly, ask questions and take some risks. Some may even spark an idea for a new business or technology that would lead to a startup company; something our country needs to drive our economy.

But the programs provide other benefits as well:
■  They teach how wealth and jobs are created.
■  They show how skills obtained in working for startups can translate into lots of other businesses opportunities.
■  They help students develop problem-solving skills.
■  They provide experiential learning opportunities.
■  They encourage new businesses.

Train like an athlete

Jim Clifton, chairman and CEO of Gallup, wrote in his November 2015 The Chairman’s Blog that we need to cultivate entrepreneurial talent in young people just as we do athletic talent.

His comparison of developing scientists and entrepreneurs to the development of highly performing athletes was compelling.

As a society, parents and schools invest heavily in athletes at young ages in the hope that they will have a chance of playing in college and beyond — even though only a very small percentage will.

Clifton’s argument is that we invest just as heavily in the small percentage of students who show entrepreneurial or product/technology development promise.

We need to cultivate and nurture the entrepreneurial talent in our young people. Given that nearly all new jobs stem from startups and small businesses, it is important to identify future leaders and train them with attention comparable to what we do for high-performing athletes.

What can we do?

There are several things we can do to encourage this curiosity and engage young talent with potential to be the next generation of entrepreneurs:
■  Continue to support programs in schools.
■  Open our businesses, universities and other programs to young students who want to learn more about what it takes to be an entrepreneur or start a business.
■  Support and create business competitions for young entrepreneurs.
■  Have internship opportunities in startups for law students, accounting students and other professional services so they can be trained to support entrepreneurs.
■  Leverage the strengths of the partnerships in your own entrepreneurial ecosystems to assist and teach young people.

Anthony Margida is the CEO at Akron Global Business Accelerator