04 Sep The Intersection of Education, Entrepreneurship and the Future of Work
Entrepreneurship is a buzzword these days, yet many young people don’t know what it means.
As the rate of unemployment on the continent keeps rising, it looks like the most viable roadmap to economic sustainability is through self-employment.
If that is true, and research shows that it is, then there’s a clear intersection between education, entrepreneurship, and the future of work.
In this article, we shall explore this intersection and how we should educate young people for the future of work.
Let’s get started, shall we?
The intersection of education, entrepreneurship, and the future of work
Many times when people talk about these elements – education, entrepreneurship, and the future of work – they are often discussed as mutually exclusive concepts. In that sense, there’s an “either-or” proposition between entrepreneurship and employment. That’s wrong.
Whereas many believe there can be some level of autonomy within an already established institution, the term “intrapreneurship” does not give us the full picture of the subject matter. It seems to suggest that this is an exceptional case – and might not be for everybody.
Like many challenges in our society today, this wrong assumption stems from our education system. The way they teach entrepreneurship in many schools around the continent is fundamentally wrong. All through our lives, they’ve explained that entrepreneurship is “the activity of setting up a business or businesses, taking on financial risks in the hope of profit.”
When narrowly so defined, it suggests that entrepreneurship is about the title, status, or economic gain.
Yet, the converse perspective is that entrepreneurship is far beyond those elements. Factually, entrepreneurship does not necessarily mean starting your own business – it’s a mindset. It’s is an awareness to take ownership of one’s reality and direction, and persistently execute against those objectives until fruition.
Here’s why that’s important. We live in a world where children that are entering primary school today will end up working in jobs that never existed before. Therefore, we do our entire society a great disservice if we do not teach them how to solve problems, be self-reliant, sell, and collaborate.
These factors are the fundamentals of entrepreneurship. It is a process of offering innovative, marketable solutions to societal problems and creating a human institution that can sustainably drive that solution at scale.
In other words, whether you work in a job or have your venture, you can take ownership of your reality, direction, and thought.
Entrepreneurship and the future of work
Most of the conversation around the future of work lacks one key substance. We have majored in understanding the interaction between intelligent technologies and automation on jobs and employee skills but little mention has been made of entrepreneurship in that context.
The signs are all over the place; entrepreneurship is the future of work. The “fragmentation of work (short-term contracts, gig work, project-based work, etc.), and the imbalance of power between employers and workers” are proof of that fact.
We’re entering an era where everyone will have to take the reins of his or her career aspirations. With the increasing labor market polarization in many developing economies, successful employees of the future will be those who managed their careers with the principles of what we know as entrepreneurship today. In other words, we’re all going to be entrepreneurs in the future.
I have said this for so long, yet many people don’t get it. Am I the only one that thinks like this? Do other people have an opinion in this direction?
Let’s take a look at Robot-Proof: Higher Education in the Age of Artificial Intelligence by Aoun Joseph (2017):
“A ‘robot-proof’ education is not concerned solely with filling student minds with high-octane facts. Rather, it calibrates them with a creative mindset and the mental elasticity to invent, discover, or create something valuable to society.”
Gary Schoeniger, the founder of the Entrepreneurial Learning Initiative and the Ice House Entrepreneurship Programs:
“Entrepreneurship is more than an academic discipline. It is a mindset; a framework for thinking and acting that can empower anyone to succeed. And, in today’s rapidly changing, highly complex world, the need for entrepreneurial thinkers at all levels of society has never been greater” (Schoeniger, n.d. 2013).
Finally, here’s a ted talk by Satish Kanwar on why entrepreneurship is the future of work.
What’s the way forward?
First, we must change our perspective on the subject matter.
Owning a business does not make a person an entrepreneur. A lot of people are only romantic about the fancy CEO/Owner/Founder title, and they’re not entrepreneurs. Any surprise why the stat of dead startups is so high?
It’s better to own a piece of the cake than to not have the cake at all. My prediction is, shortly, no one will hire anyone as staff. We’ll all be looking for collaborators.
Think this is far fetched? Check out this video of Nigeria-based payment processor, Flutterwave, replacing their monthly staff salaries with a monthly billing invoice for work done. Although this was a prank, I foresee it becoming an industry norm someday.
Second, we must redesign and refocus our curricula and pedagogy to harness the creative genius of every child. We must teach people how to collaborate with others as well as how to be resilient and independent.
People often have this idea that they don’t teach entrepreneurship in the classroom, but that cannot be further from the truth. The reason for this idea is because our education system has been “concerned solely with filling student minds with high-octane facts” over the last few decades.
But the tides are now turning.
In my opinion, the number one requirement for entrepreneurship is creativity. And each one of us was born with this innate ability.
The dividends of the digital economy belong to people who have the skills to harness and monetize their creativity.
Only by cultivating the mindset of problem-solving can we unlock the potential of the next generation and create equal opportunities for everyone.
On our part, we have created a six weeks career coaching program to equip young people with the skills that will be most valuable in the future, as well as connect them with industry leaders. If you’re looking for tools and resources to unlock your potential, sign up now!
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Tom-Chris Emewulu is the Founder & President of SFAN (Stars From All Nations). When he’s not building SFAN and helping entrepreneurs and rising professionals create fulfilling careers, he’s telling African innovation stories or advocating for people-centered policy. Tom-Chris is a former consultant at Mastercard Foundation, Seedstars Ambassador for Ghana, and the author of the forthcoming book: Breaking the Limits. He is a thought leader on youth development, social entrepreneurship, technological innovation, and the future of work.