Changing minds set against risks

12th December 1997 at 00:00
Students have "entrepreneurial hearts but not entrepreneurial heads," according to Gordon McVie from Scottish Enterprise's skills division.

This was revealed in research for his agency, albeit into higher education, which showed that peer and parental pressure inclined students towards an academic route that would lead to the professions or corporate careers.

"What we are trying to do is to change people's mind-sets so that when down-sizing occurs and they lose their jobs, they are not fazed by the prospect of starting their own business," he says.

The HE sector, with the help of Pounds 1 million from Scottish Enterprise, has established entrepreneurship studies in six universities which aims to illustrate the processses, risks and rewards. The courses, adapted from Babson College in Boston, America's top-rated college of entrepreneurship, will be spread through the rest of HE in 1999.

An Oxford University evaluation of the scheme concluded that it had "remarkable" achievements to its credit in a short time. While some students said their reason for taking the elective modules was the lack of examinations and less than one per cent saw them as a means of developing a business idea, 87 per cent of the students felt the courses had improved their career prospects.

This is good enough for Scottish Enterprise which stresses that "all employees need entrepreneurial attributes whatever career path they follow" if they are to cope with job uncertainties later on in life.

Professor John Arbuthnott, principal of Strathclyde University, suggests that in ten years' time the majority of graduates will need entrepreneurial skills at some time in their working lives.

The increasing preoccupation with enterprise and entrepreneurship in schools, colleges and universities has clear educational benefits in stimulating good communication, creativity, drive, self-belief, teamwork, a capacity to learn and what Mr McVie describes as a "can-do attitude".

But the roots of the strategy remain economic and employment-based.

Scottish Enterprise estimates that 125,000 jobs were created by new firms between 1978 and 1990 north of the border, compared with 320,000 in the south-east of England. If Scotland had generated business births at that rate, unemployment would be zero, the agency claims.

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