Every year, the nation fails to graduate approximately 1.2 million students from high school. These individuals will face severe obstacles to employment, livable wages, and civic participation and will often drift into crime or be incarcerated. Even students who do manage to earn their diploma are often unprepared for the rigors of postsecondary education or work. For these young people, the lack of an adequate education means a lost opportunity to enjoy successful and rewarding careers; for the American companies looking to hire qualified workers, they mean a tremendous deficit in productivity and a greater competitiveness disadvantage with international rivals that are able to draw from a better educated pool of workers.
The Youth Entrepreneurship Education in America: A Policymaker’s Action Guide, a new publication from the Aspen Institute Youth Entrepreneurship Strategy Group (YES Group) examines this disconnect between what employers want and what America’s youth bring to the table. Far too often, it notes, the nation’s young people lack the skills that American companies look for to allow them to compete in a global economy. The skills deficit is particularly noticeable in science and math, as well as the ability to work in teams, think creatively, or to interact effectively.
According to the guide, an “entrepreneurial mindset,” which it defines as a “critical mix of success-oriented attitudes of initiative, intelligent risk-taking, collaboration, and opportunity recognition,” can help students develop these skills. Entrepreneurial education, it argues, is a mutually beneficial solution that can benefit students and American companies alike and must be included with the host of different solutions that will “better engage young people in their education,” while also building “stronger connections between communities, businesses, and schools.”
“Preparing today’s students for success and eventual leadership in the new global marketplace is the most important responsibility in education today,” write Stephanie Bell-Rose, YES Group chairperson and managing director of Goldman, Sachs, and Co., and Thomas W. Payzant, YES Group vice chairperson and professor at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education, in the foreword to the guide. “Providing them with guidance and opportunity at the most critical junctures along their educational journey can have a profound impact. Entrepreneurship education is an important tool to achieving these objectives.”
The report notes that entrepreneurial education programs are in place in some communities across the nation and have a “proven track record of keeping kids in school, and providing them with the skills, knowledge, and tools needed to start their own ventures….” However, it adds that most American youths have little to no access to this training.
The goal of the YES Group is to ensure that all high school graduates from low-income communities have educational opportunities to explore their entrepreneurial potential. To this end, the YES Group’s “I Said Yes” campaign seeks to help educators and policymakers adopt statewide standards for youth entrepreneurship education, and revise existing education statutes, such as the No Child Left Behind Act, the Higher Education Act, and Workforce Investment Act, to include entrepreneurship skills as a desired competency in educational standards.
The Youth Entrepreneurship Education in America: A Policymaker’s Action Guide is available at http://tinyurl.com/6njamb.