This quote reflects the European Commission's request to Member States to support growth and business creation across Europe. Readying young people to enter the workforce, creating jobs and new enterprises, developing innovative youth employability-enhancing solutions are fundamental actions to address some of the most pressing youth-centred social problems in Europe. In order to achieve this overarching objective, it is key to allow young people to have access to innovative learning programmes centred on the skills and abilities needed in the labour market, to promote a change of mind-set among teachers, to encourage new business creation and the jobs that come with them.
Searching for education strategies that can aid long-term growth and employability, the European Commission has identified mini-companies as one among the most successful concepts fostering entrepreneurial education. The idea behind this is to involve students and teachers in setting up and running a “real” mini-company while being at school, through an education programme based on a clear set of steps and learning outcomes and mainly focused on learning-by-doing methodologies and practical application of students’ basic skills.
(JA-YE) is Europe’s largest provider of entrepreneurship education programmes, reaching 3.2 million students in primary, secondary, vocational school and at university. The JA-YE Company Programme at secondary level is recognised by the European Commission Enterprise Directorate General as a ‘Best Practice in Entrepreneurship Education’. Implemented in 38 countries, educators guide their students as they set up their enterprise, come up with an idea, raise capital through shares, produce their product and take it to market. Through this programme students develop their ability to generate ideas and turn them into action; learn how to work in a team, take initiative and accept responsibility; experience what it means to manage a real enterprise; understand how economics and finance contribute to the project’s success; apply their math, science, language, writing, technological or specialized skills in a new and practical way. The competences students gain here will be valuable no matter what career path they choose and at the same time they have the skills they need to start their own business or be self-employed.
The engagement of volunteer mentors from enterprises plays an important role as well, helping students make the connection between what they are learning and the world outside school. Their role as expert advisor is an excellent complement to the role of the teacher in the classroom.
While thousands of young people take part in mini-companies each year and they may receive a certificate of participation locally, there has to date never been a European certification that explicitly promotes the particular kind of entrepreneurial knowledge, skills and competences these students have. An “Entrepreneurial Skills Pass” would be attractive to potential employers and it would also help encourage more young people to choose entrepreneurship education opportunities at school. It also serves as a tool to assess impact and effectiveness of this kind of education across multiple countries.
JA-YE Europe, together with WKO and CSR Europe, have developed theEntrepreneurial Skills Pass (ESP) which requires completion of a mini-company experience and an online test. ESP holders will become a pool of uniquely qualified and highly enterprising candidates.
The ESP is part of the European Business Campaign on Skills for Jobs, an initiative promoted by CSR Europe and JA-YE Europe convening companies to provide an answer to business risks related to skills and employability such as an ageing workforce, a growing skills gap and stagnating socio-economic development. Employers and educators alike back the ESP as a competitive advantage for young people pursuing further education, entering the world of work or starting a venture on their own.
European Commission, Entrepreneurship 2020 Action Plan – Reigniting the entrepreneurial spirit in Europe. Brussels 2013: Brussels.