Entrepreneurship training in schools: A powerful tool in job creation and poverty reduction

Arinitwe Stephen (20) already has several companies running in Uganda, in addition to a non-profit organization. 2143.jpg
The NORAD-supported project "Junior Achievement Uganda" is reducing poverty and unemployment in Uganda by using entrepreneurship as a weapon.

By Jarle Tømmerbakke, Ungt Entreprenørskap.

More than 24,000 Ugandan students have already participated in entrepreneurship education. The Company Program is Junior Achievement’s global flagship program.  These students spend 50 to 100 hours learning by doing during a year in high school. The programs were launched by Junior Achievement Uganda in 2009. The initiative is thanks to collaboration between Junior Achievement-Young Enterprise Norway (JA-YE Norway) and NORAD (The Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation).

“For every dollar the community uses to teach entrepreneurship in schools, the return to the society is 45 times as much,” concludes a report from "Boston Consulting Group" (BCG) in Canada. ("Making an impact. Assessing Junior Achievement of Canada's Value Creation", January 2011).

BCG has analysed the long-term effects of entrepreneurship education (EE) in schools and they calculate that such learning creates an annual return of $45 for every one dollar spent. Junior Achievement (JA) alumni in Canada are 50% more likely to open their own business, they are 25% less likely to be unemployed and they are three times less likely to spend more than they earn.

The effect of such teaching is the same in Uganda as in Canada, Norway and elsewhere: Participants go on to set up many more businesses than the average in the population and they are making better choices with regard to their further education and careers.

From student to the serial entrepreneur
Arinitwe Stephen (20) already has several companies running in Uganda, in addition to a non-profit organization. He was one of the first students who participated in The JA Company Program at his school:
-“After running the JA Company Program one school year, I was so inspired that I decided to continue my business in the holiday season. I soon had 12 young people employed producing various paper bags. Today, I have trained 60 people.. They move into production when we get a large order. Among the staff we have students who have dropped out of school, students working part-time and adults. In addition, I have started a company that provides training in IT, where we have five computers and 25 students.”

Arinitwe is also cultivating vegetables in the village where he lives and he has five people employed there.  Recently, he started the organization HEMFRIA Uganda (Helping my Friend Association of Uganda). 

“I want to be involved in transforming Uganda,” says Arinitwe. “Junior Achievement was a great inspiration and motivated me to become what I am today. I know I can succeed in what I really want.”

Entrepreneurship in school is an effective tool for job creation
In the BCG study, they found that 70% of the former students indicate that EE had a significant impact on their desire to be an entrepreneur or open their own business. 65% of them indicate that it had a significant impact on staying in high school and enrolling in post-secondary education.
Eastern Norway Research Institute (ENRI, Østlandsforskning) has done several studies in Norway and Europe on the impact of EE which correlate with the BCG findings. ENRI found that entrepreneurship in school is an extremely effective tool for job creation and stimulates more start-ups. Participants are 50% more likely to open their own business; they found when they compared 25 year old former Company Program students with a twin group of students not participating in such programs in school.

The findings from Uganda are that The Company Program promotes positive attitudes towards entrepreneurs is in accordance with studies in other countries. Compared to non-participants, former participants more often consider self-employment to be an interesting career option, more often judge that they have the necessary knowledge and skills to set up and run a new business, and they are overrepresented among those having set up their own company.

Many empirical studies have shown that EE contributes positively to young people’s creativity and self-respect, as well as their skills in cooperation and decision-making. They have also demonstrated that such education changes young people’s attitudes towards entrepreneurship, and that young people who participate in entrepreneurship education are more likely to become entrepreneurs compared to the general population (Johansen et al. 2008).

Furthermore, a recent study of 24-25 years olds from Norway shows a much higher start-up rate among former participants in the Company Programme (17% have established an enterprise or are in the process of establishing an enterprise) compared to non-participants (13% have established an enterprise or are in the process of establishing an enterprise) (Johansen 2011).

Empowering recipient countries to achieve their own development goals
Today, approximately 54 million young people in sub-Saharan Africa are neither attending school nor employed. Teaching entrepreneurship in school is new to most of Africa and demand is enormous. Little in the way of good materials is available to ministries of education, and certainly not well-adapted to the local context. Know-how is scarce so well-designed partnerships are critical to success. Teacher training is essential to sustainability and scale.

“There is a need to nurture a culture in which creating jobs is encouraged more than getting a job. Evidence suggests that young people are ready to rise to the challenge.” (The Report of the Africa Commission May 2009)

The Norwegian Crown Prince Haakon and his wife Crown Princess Mette-Marit recently pointed out what they felt should be an important area in Norwegian and international development aid. “Youth as a human resource is the basis on which we can build better communities. Their effort is important to create welfare and development.  Young people are probably more innovative and better coming up with new ideas. Finally, entrepreneurship is one of the most important contributions to overcoming poverty.” Their foundation recently gave support to two projects on youth and entrepreneurship in 2010

For the last 3 years, JA-YE Norway has been helping build a sister organisation, Junior Achievement Uganda. The objective is ambitious: To create a culture of innovation in education sector and to motivate students to create value, both economically and socially. The plan is to reach 50,000 more young people over the next 3 years; to inspire more young students to become job creators in a country with huge unemployment and where 30 per cent of the people live below the UN poverty line. More than 300 schools have participated so far, and 24 000 students have already tasted the experience of running their own business.

Ministry of Education says the challenge is to reach a significant number of students fast enough
The evaluation from ENRI shows that the work of JA Uganda has helped to lay a foundation for more innovation in education sector. According to ENRI, where JA Uganda has gained access, they are making a difference: The school administration and teachers can see that it is working, they seems to take entrepreneurship seriously and are changing their way of teaching and their practices.

To a large extent, Africa’s education systems promote “rote learning” which does little to prepare students for a world that demands that they take the initiative and be self-reliant and enterprising. The building of a stronger culture of entrepreneurship and 'entrepreneurial mind-sets' of African citizens, particularly young people, is therefore even more important. Education and training are key drivers in this process. All students should have access to entrepreneurship education, which should be offered in all types and at all levels of education.

The Ministry of Education in Uganda endorses mini-companies because they see that it is producing powerful results. They say such learning helps young people make the connection between theory and real life.

So far, the program is available to about 5% of the students in upper secondary school.  The goal is to reach at least 20%. The return on investment of EE is very high. It is clearly one of the most cost-effective job creation and poverty reduction strategies countries in Africa could ever implement.

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