Why This is Important
Generation Z will likely be more entrepreneurial than past generations. The economy is one of the hardest hit in recent times and there is a greater mismatch between higher education skills and workplace needs. Wages of college graduates coming of age during a recession are stagnant and debt from college tuition is rising. All of these factors mean that creating a new job may be the path of choice for Gen Z. In fact, according to a recent Kauffman Foundation study, 40 percent of youth aged 8 to 24 are interested in starting their own business. Moreover, this generation enjoys autonomy, one of the many traits that several individuals who pursue an entrepreneurship path enjoy, as well as having control over their lives, the creative freedom entrepreneurship offers them and the pleasure of being rooted in their communities.
The Kauffman Foundation considered the three different motivations for why students might be interested in entrepreneurship: (1) general learning about the concept; (2) learning about the concept in light of the surrounding community (i.e., entrepreneurship in Silicon Valley would look different than entrepreneurship in Baltimore); and (3) learning how to launch a product or service. Best practices look different depending on the motivation behind the education and the context of the learning. For example, college students who want to apply their learning to a particular community might consider the work of Venture for America, an organization that trains the next generation of entrepreneurs alongside an experienced mentor, but also in a community that needs revitalization, such as Providence, New Orleans, and Detroit.
In high school, the success of teaching entrepreneurship can be more readily assured if a few things are in place. For example, a teacher with a background in business could use real-world examples to explain different business concepts. Alternatively, integrating the idea of entrepreneurship into courses such as accounting, computer science may help bring the learning to life. Entrepreneurial education is also successful when it is weaved into the community, so students can test their skills. This is particularly true in rural communities where jobs are often created rather than found.
Current Context in NC
The North Carolina Rural Entrepreneurship through Action Learning (NC REAL) is a program designed for students to help them decide if they have the skills to become an entrepreneur, if their community will support their idea and how to plan a future enterprise they may run someday. Outside of secondary education, NC REAL also provides assistance to community colleges and universities to expand their own entrepreneurship programs and has a stand alone course for aspiring entrepreneurs every year.
The UNC system schools also have dozens of entrepreneurship centers or classes that teach entrepreneurial skills. A few of the undergraduate program offerings are listed here. Entrepreneur magazine has named both UNC Chapel Hill and Wake Forest University as two of the top graduate business schools in the country for students seeking to develop their skills in this area.
- Appalachian State University Center for Entrepreneurship in the Walker College of Business was started in 2006 to support of student entrepreneurs.
- NC State Entrepreneurship Initiative (EI) supports individual projects and provides students with resources.
- UNC-Chapel Hill’s Kenan-Flagler Business School has a Center for Entrepreneurial Studies, and The Center for Sustainable Enterprise runs BASE, the Business Accelerator for Sustainable Entrepreneurship
- UNC-Wilmington Entrepreneurship Center has a place for students and entrepreneurs.