How to spur the spirit of entrepreneurship in youths

THE convergence of globalisation, technological innovations and knowledge-based economies has led to the growing interest in entrepreneurship, which is the willingness to take risks to develop and manage a business venture in a competitive global marketplace that is evolving.

In Malaysia, the presence of entrepreneurs has been prevalent in recent years. Some examples of successful local entrepreneurs include Tan Sri Tony Fernandes, the founder of Tune Air Sdn Bhd, Malaysian fashion designer Datuk Jimmy Choo and Michael Teoh, the founder of Next Up Asia.

Youth entrepreneurship is gaining popularity and now plays an integral role in ensuring sustainable economic growth as it has the potential to fuel innovation, create jobs, increase productivity and competitiveness, as well as achieve societal goals.

At present, we are seeing an increasing number of youths in society who are engaging in efforts to be their own entrepreneurs and demonstrate that their generation – exposed to theoretical and practical knowledge, fresh thinking and dreams – can be effective catalysts of change and progress.

The government continues to focus on the development of young entrepreneurs and considers it to be a key element in generating economic growth. One such example is the Cradle Investment Programme, by Cradle Fund Sdn Bhd, an agency under the Ministry of Finance. This programme is Malaysia's first development and technology commercialisation funding programme that enables aspiring entrepreneurs to transform their technology ideas into business ventures.

The government also aims to make Malaysia an entrepreneurial nation by encouraging graduates to venture into entrepreneurship upon graduation to reduce graduate unemployment.

Driving the spirit of entrepreneurship

When it comes to instilling the spirit of entrepreneurship in youth, educational institutions can play an instrumental role by encouraging them to achieve their full potential and identifying new opportunities. They can do this by cultivating an entrepreneurial drive among youths, hone their entrepreneurial abilities to identify opportunities, and equip them with a solid foundation in business development. The following are some of the areas that educational institutions can help prepare youths to start thinking about being entrepreneurs.

» Personalised preparation for global opportunities

Each youth is unique as he or she brings different skill sets, strengths and passions to the table. One of the key roles of educators is to help facilitate their self-awareness and to discover their passions.

Educators should strive to open up avenues to help students move into working life. Activities such as self-discovery workshops give them a sense of what their strengths and learning styles are. After learning about their strengths, it is vital to complement them with career discovery programmes that provide them with opportunities to explore career options in a variety of industries.

To enable students to understand every possible career pathway, educators can invite leaders to share industry insights and developments.

» Inspire with real examples

There is no greater inspiration than first-hand experience. Youths learn best by doing, thinking, observing, experimenting and exploring their environment of people, things, places and events. As such, educational institutions can invite successful entrepreneurs to be guest speakers to share their own personal journey. Youths should also be required to read biographies of entrepreneurs to inspire and open up their minds to the various opportunities and ideas that are available in the market.

Field trips to local businesses, including entrepreneurial ventures to learn about their solutions and creative approaches to doing business can be conducted as examples of successful case studies.

» Learning through experience

Learning through experience is vital in educating youths to be successful entrepreneurs. This is why it is important to provide students with the opportunity to showcase their innovative and entrepreneurial spirit through real-life projects. As an example, three students from INTI created a computerised electro-mechanical robotic system to welcome, guide and provide multimedia presentations to visitors at Universidad Europea de Madrid in Spain that garnered them the top spot in the inaugural Laureate Award for Excellence in Robotic Engineering in May 2014.

At the end of the day, successful entrepreneurs need to always look ahead and need not fear failure, even if their first or second attempts at an entrepreneurial venture may not be a success. Youths have to understand that experience is key and they need to view mistakes as learning curves to better themselves to be entrepreneurs.

Let's create more young entrepreneurs

Youths have the potential to take charge of their own futures as they choose to see their passions through their ventures. Educational institutions have the responsibility to encourage them to take calculated risks, to continuously be innovative, attentive in looking for opportunities and most importantly, to not be ashamed of failure. Entrepreneurs stand out from the rest in the workforce as they can make a sustainable difference to their local communities and take their entrepreneurial ideas to the global stage with the wide array of digital channels.

Amit Sevak is chief executive officer, Laureate Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore.