The rationale and opportunities for developing youth entrepreneurship policies
In considering the content and curriculum the following areas should be considered. There should be a focus on developing entrepreneurial mind-sets (such as recognising and acting on an opportunity). Hence, training should encourage attitudinal changes. Training approaches should include learning by doing, experimentation and being prepared to accept failure and learn from it.
The practice of effective small business ownership and entrepreneurship includes a variety of different qualities. These include:
• Possessing the knowledge and professional practice to run a business: (e.g. competency development finance). The literature suggests that students for example need to possess different ‘resource logics’ of other entrepreneurs (Politis et al., 2013).
• Skills and attitudes: behavioural (e.g. leadership technical). Younger people may have the determination and enthusiasm to run a business but do they have the appropriate skills-set and leadership qualities? Hence programmes should take this into consideration.
• Meta-qualities: (e.g. ability to reflect on self-knowledge, collect new knowledge). How do younger people differ from other groups of the population?
When seeking to enhance skills and competencies, particular attention should be given to
• Enhancing the means to practise entrepreneurship (raising the ability to mobilise resources) and filling gaps in social and financial capital. These are particular issues for younger people, given their shorter periods of time in work.
• Identification of wider cultural and social networks. Socio-economic-cultural contexts are important, e.g. Females, minority groups, low-income, high income localities. These will add further complexity to the development of training and mentoring programmes for younger people.
Methods of training and mentoring
There are numerous ways in which training and mentoring programmes can be delivered.
These can range from traditional ways of information transfer (Classroom; distance learning; selfstudy) through to interaction with peers and key agents in the business support network. These actual methods of delivery may be associated with different types of learning. For example:
• Behavioural and human capital development may be enhanced through role plays and problem solving exercises.
• Meta-qualities such as confidence and leadership may be developed through action learning sets; developing the ability of learning to learn; and identifying self-weaknesses for subsequent development.
Formal approaches need also to be complemented by tacit learning with peers and networks.
These may involve, for example:
• Partnership involvement: meetings with financiers, banks, landlords, incubators, trade and professional organisations
• Mentoring with peers – young people who have actually started and run a business
• Face-to-face interaction effective
• Connecting youth with knowledge networks
Although there are many learning theories, care needs to be taken when interpreting these to specific situations and groups of the population. For younger people, a body of literature exists on their training gaps are, how their entrepreneurial potential may be measured, programme contents and how this should be best delivered. However, this knowledge base is not perfect and is constantly changing with the latest ideas and modes of delivery (e.g. Royal Society of Arts, 2013; Valero et al.,2014).
It is broadly understood that a gap exists between the entrepreneurial intentions and action amongst young people. In considering training and mentoring for youth entrepreneurs, there is a need to identify the specific requirements of youth entrepreneurs and the objectives of the intervention.
These need to be tailored programmes, and sensitised to the context – the geographic and environmental situation – and to the desired outcomes of the intervention. The paper also emphasises the need for a segmentation of the youth enterprise market based on a range of factors. The use of real examples from peers should be encouraged within the content of the curriculum but nonetheless the method of delivery should be linked with existing learning theories and prior experiences.
Furthermore, monitoring and evaluation are essential parts of the process. Currently there is a lack of objective evidence on the effectiveness of interventions and programmes, and therefore it is important to feed into new programmes to increase their effectiveness.