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Posted By Megan Ballard, Thursday, October 16, 2014

Entrepreneurship: A Mindset Every Student Needs and the Workforce Demands

Panelists: Bree Langemo | Gary Schoeniger | Joe Raso

Submitted by Braden Croy - Syracuse University

This discussion will help redefine entrepreneurship and the mindset entrepreneurs need, as well as the workforce view which is driving modern entrepreneurship and employment. 

Fun fact for everyone, in the United States, 70% of workers are not engaged in their work.  Gallup notes that 19% of the workforce is actively unengaged and 51% is just unengaged, meaning they won’t create anything great for their companies.

Entrepreneurial thinking provides a framework which can help recapture some of that lost human potential.  However, we’re facing a problem in defining mindset and its understanding in an actionable way.  The term mindset is the underlying beliefs and assumptions that drive behavior—a simple definition but does it cover everything?  We’re often not aware of the actions and patterns which define our mindsets and employees, citizens, and business owners.

Entrepreneurship can be simply defined as searching.  Not everyone is going to sign up to be a business owner or is capable of coming up with a revolutionary technology.  Entrepreneurship though is simply about containing a body of search skills.

The search process must come before the business process. Entrepreneurial attitudes and skills are the search for the connection between needs and business opportunities.  Entrepreneurs possess interaction, observation, experimentation, adaptation, problem solving, networking, and communication skills.  Many times these skillsets aren’t taught or are even actively discouraged in an academic setting.  We teach delivery skills not searching skills.

We must learn how to help students search for the intersection of their competencies and other people.

Entrepreneurship is not a business discipline. 

Only once someone finds something, they have searched far and wide enough, do managerial skills become important.  Redefining entrepreneurship as the ability to search, helps skeptical teachers embrace the idea of entrepreneurship.

The entrepreneur believe he or she can empower themselves by solving problems for others.  As educators, it is our job to help students take their passions, their abilities and turn those into problem solutions for other people.

The question is, is it the person or the situation which makes entrepreneurs?

Fundamental attribution errors is the tendency to overemphasize the importance of traits while failing to recognize the importance of situation factors that influence behavior.  Causation for correlation.  People fail to recognize the extent to which observed action and outcomes relate to the person versus the situation.

Social pressures are influencing use to such a severe extent that most of the time we don’t even realize it.  Entrepreneurs need to be surrounded by other entrepreneurs.  Social pressure is why ecosystem need a critical mass of entrepreneurs to truly thrive.  Keep in mind that A players want to work with A players.

People are defined by their situations and the experiences of their lives.  No entrepreneur will ever be the same people none of us have the same past, present, or future.  We need to ask ourselves whether what we are doing in our institutions is helping students find solutions and understand searching is the key skill to possess for entrepreneurial success.  We must turn class into an incubator for inquiry and analysis.

No matter who you’re talking to, people will always be talking about jobs.  It’s simple but true, “it’s about the economy stupid.”  An amazing stat is that 40% of the workforce in the next few years will be independent contractors.  A tectonic shift is happening in what it means to be employed. 

As communities what are we measuring—completion rates, job openings, or work output?  Traditional metrics will no longer be relevant because work will no longer be performed in the traditional manner.

As communities, the task will be to make it an ecosystem where people will want to live because they can work from anywhere.  Community is the new currency.  If I can work from anywhere, why will I choose your community?

The number one thing employers talk about needing—not technical skills—but foundational skills: communication, team building, creativity, etc.  Big corporations and startups alike all need workforce.  They need a workforce with an entrepreneurial mindset of searching and creativity.  The communities which build these foundational skills and make these skillset connections will be the most prosperous moving forward.  Let’s not treat the symptoms, but rather let’s create an antidote.

Community colleges can be the best resource to lead the creation of these antidotes.  CC’s make the perfect leader because they are focused on serving the regional economy and are typically the closest to the employer.  Community colleges serve tremendously as the connector between K-12 and four year institutions.  CC’s also have a myriad of credit and non-credit courses which are imperative to entrepreneurial training and skills development.

Pikes Peak Community College is breaking the mold and placing their entrepreneurial programs, Icehouse, outside of the business program.  The mindset of entrepreneurship which Icehouse teaches should be provided and taught to all students, no matter their course of study.  PPCC is even mandating their students learn the search process of entrepreneurship by making their program a foundational course.

PPCC’s goal was the advancement of student persistence by inspiring and engaging students in a success mindset and the limitless opportunities it can provide.  The bigger picture goal is the creation of entrepreneurship as a mindset every student possess in the workforce.  They currently have three outcome classification: short, medium, and long term.

Short: changes in skills knowledge, attitudes, perceptions, and behaviors

Medium: increased pass rates, increased 1st semester to 2nd semester retention rates, and increased 1st semester to 3rd semester retention rates.  For those not in the community college know, the largest challenge facing community colleges is keeping students between fall semesters.

Long: increased persistence rate and increased graduation rates within 3.5 years

If you can’t message your entrepreneurial programs you’re going to have a difficult time selling it to students and the administrators.  Message it as discovery and critical thinking skills rather than traditional business ownership or startup.  Many students don’t want to be entrepreneurs, but they need entrepreneurial skills and the mindset.  The word entrepreneurship has blended too much with business management, make sure to clarify that these two activities are wholly different.

PPCC has an Icehouse community including:

  • Pikes Peak Library District

  • Small Business Development Center

  • Pikes Peak Workforce Center

  • Junior achievement

  • Black Chamber of Commerce

  • See the Change USA

  • Peak Freedom Forum

Pulling together all of these partners is instrumental to making Pikes Peak Community College a beacon of light for community college entrepreneurship and community engagement.  They have taken a fresh look at what being an entrepreneur means and the Icehouse curriculum and program have given them that ability.  A little luck, a lot of hard work, and tremendous vision can make any college campus a leader in the new era of employment.

Tags:  12th conference  conference 

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