The Fire Within Posted October 13, 2016 by Bertus Kock

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The most important meaning of work to me is that I am able to put food on the table and a roof over the heads of my dependents and for myself. Work means that I share an interest in the well being of the economy. Work means that I am able to apply my training, education and skills to make a living while such engagement gives meaning to my life. What is of particular importance to all of us is to find work as soon as we completed our education in order to develop a career. All of these benefits fall away if you are unemployed.

What happens if I am young and ready to work while statistics tells me that my chance to find work is poor? South African statistics for 2014 found that 41% of the population or 19 630 000 South Africans could be classified as youth. Of these 5 977 000 were employed, 3 474 000 unemployed and 10 159 000 not economically active. Eight point nine percent of these young people were involved within early-stage entrepreneurial activity (in 2015) that reflects on the low number of young people who pursue self-employment as an option. World wide, a young person had been found (2013) to be three times more likely to be unemployed as compared to an adult.

Stable employment is furthermore not being guaranteed for those young people who secure employment. Numerous studies on the topic of the future of work found that very few people who started to work for one employer complete their career with the same employer. More and more work is being outsourced or structured on a contractual basis.

A worldwide tendency evolved from the logic above to appreciate entrepreneurship as the solution to these challenges. Competent entrepreneurs are being able to create jobs for themselves and others while they assume the responsibility for the development of their own careers. Existing data supports the hypothesis that entrepreneurs make a contribution to job creation and to contribute to economic growth.

Entrepreneurs are receiving this attention because they: are able to build a business or organization from practically nothing; they make things happen for themselves; they turn set-backs into opportunities; they see gaps; they sense opportunities; they maintain effort until their objectives had been achieved; they build founding teams of talents and expertise around them to complement their abilities in areas where they are less knowledgeable or skilled; they initiate and do; they have the know-how to find, marshal and control resources often owned by others and make sure they don’t run out of money when most needed; they take calculated risk, both personal and financial to then do everything they possibly could to turn the odds in their favor.

There is an important distinction made by scholars between necessity entrepreneurs and opportunity entrepreneurs. Necessity entrepreneurs are being defined as those who are being pushed into entrepreneurship because of the necessity to have a job. Opportunity entrepreneurs are being defined as those who are being pulled into entrepreneurship most likely, from an existing job. Opportunity entrepreneurs tend to be more profitable than necessity entrepreneurs. Efforts to alleviate poverty through the stimulation of entrepreneurship will have a strong emphasis upon necessity entrepreneurs.

Policy initiatives provide for an enabling environment towards entrepreneurship development: the South African National Youth Policy 2015 – 2020 states that “Economic participation (through entrepreneurship and participation in the labour market) is an area that still needs serious attention” while it aims to “Strengthen youth service programmes and introduce new community-based programmes to offer young people life-skills training, entrepreneurship training and opportunities to participate in community development programmes.” The Department of Basic Education had been mandated by the Human Resource Development Council to implement entrepreneurship education with a focus on four areas: teacher development, stakeholder involvement, policy formulation and, the development of foundation skills (numeracy and literacy) amongst learners.

A number of substantial initiatives to stimulate entrepreneurship amongst the South African youth are reaching scale. More that 3 000 South African schools, 342 000 learners and 2 400 teachers had been reached through in-school entrepreneurship education delivery together with the annual national “Simama Ranta” competition for secondary schools.

In-school entrepreneurship education is being delivered to South African schools since 1996 that consist learning and teaching support materials, teacher training, “Youth Enterprise Society” (YES) clubs and youth entrepreneurship leadership development.

An annual national entrepreneurship education competition open to South African secondary schools had been initiated in 2010 called “Simama Ranta” (strengthen the South African economy through youth entrepreneurship) as funded by the Eskom Development Foundation PLC. Schools enter the competition with a portfolio of evidence which responds to the eleven principles of the competition abbreviated:

  1. Clear definition of what an entrepreneur is;
  2. The usage of quality entrepreneurship education content material in the classroom;
  3. Teachers follow innovative facilitation approaches;
  4. Continuous teacher development in entrepreneurship education;
  5. In-the-classroom theory is being linked to the practice there-off in extra-mural activities;
  6. Engagement of all of the stakeholders of the school towards the development of a culture of entrepreneurship with a learner focus;
  7. Clear aims and objectives of the school that directs their entrepreneurship education initiatives which allows for monitoring and evaluation;
  8. Learners are being enabled to initiate and lead projects;
  9. The co-ownership of entrepreneurship is being illustrated through the involvement of the School Governing Body, School Management Team, all teachers, as well as engagements from the District and Provincial offices of the Department of Basic Education;
  10. Learners receive exposure to career options open to entrepreneurs and
  11. The school use effective outreach and networking strategies.

What the information above makes clear is that youth entrepreneurship represents a niche within the broad scope of entrepreneurship development. Cognizance must be taken of the developmental stages that young people finds themselves in. Efforts to stimulate an interest in entrepreneurship should not have a negative impact upon the education and training of the youth. Such initiatives must furthermore not create the perception amongst the youth that entrepreneurship represents the one and only career path to follow with anything else perceived to be of lesser value.

But, that in-school entrepreneurship education has got a tremendously positive impact on the children and young people reached is being witnessed by the lives that had been changed over the years. The impact upon self-esteem, initiative taken, constructive engagement in school activities, hope for the future and the ability to assume responsibility to create an own future all speaks to the catalytic influence of youth entrepreneurship development.

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