When I went to college there were no entrepreneurship courses. If you wanted to learn about business or get a business administration degree, you took economics, management, accounting, and other specialized courses. Most of the business knowledge learned by small business owners about running companies is through on-the-job training.
Today, about two-thirds of colleges and universities offer undergraduate courses in entrepreneurship (I teach one at Manhattanville College in Purchase, NY).
I would suggest that every college student be required to take a basic course in entrepreneurship for these reasons:
- Employment prospects. Graduating with a college degree today is no guarantee of employment. While schools don’t like to publicize this, there is a very high rate of unemployment among recent graduates (e.g., my friend’s daughter, who graduated from the University of Chicago in May 2010, reports that 60% did not have a job or even a spot in graduate school by graduation date). A study last May by the National Association of Colleges and Employers found that 24.4% of 2010 college graduates who applied for a job had one waiting after graduation (this was up from only 19.7% in 2009).
Results: Many recent graduates take minimum wage jobs and wait for the economy to turn around. (How are they going to pay off their student loan debt on minimum wages?) A better alternative could be starting their own businesses. Like other unemployed individuals, jobless graduates may become forced entrepreneurs. One professor thinks that low self-employment among those age 20 to 24 is because of lack of capital to start up and lack of business experience. From my view, determined young entrepreneurs will surely find the capital they need and, like other business owners before them, will learn while running their businesses. I suggest that being required to take an entrepreneurship class while in college will at least give them some tools to help them get started in their own business (as well as in the business world if they do get hired).
- Parental respect. Students who have gone through my program have separately and privately shared with me that they gained a new understanding and respect for parents who have their own businesses. Before the class, they didn’t really get what their parents did each day; now they do.
- Citizenship. From an entrepreneur’s perspective, one of the problems of the Obama Administration and the policies it has advanced has been the lack of business experience by its leaders. As I noted in an earlier blog, according to information from JP Morgan Global Wealth Management (as reported in The Enterprise Blog and in other places), the current administration has virtually no one in it with business experience (let alone small business experience). Since Teddy Roosevelt, the number of cabinet appointees with private sector experience generally averaged around 40% (the percentage reached 58% with Eisenhower and 56% with Reagan while falling to a low of 31% with Carter and 28% with Kennedy). The percentage for the current administration is only 8%. Without an understanding about small business, it is difficult for government to adopt programs that will actually stimulate employment rather than penalize successful companies.