“Entrepreneurship education is rarely based on a textbook course and there is much more to it than teaching someone to run a business," said the Cypriot commissioner in charge of education, culture, multilingualism and youth.
"Educational systems should continue to embed entrepreneurship. We need to instil our young people with a positive attitude towards risk-taking and not to be afraid to start again if they experience failure.”
Her comments came the European statistical agency Eurostat released new data showing that the eurozone unemployment rate rose to a new high - 10.9% in March, its highest level since the euro was launched in 1999.
The rate was up from 10.8% in February and 9.9% a year ago, and reflects the downturn in the eurozone economy as governments pursue tough austerity measures to tackle the debt crisis. Meanwhile, youth unemployment averaging over 20% is a matter of serious concern.
“This is not only a terrible waste of talent and resources but also a major obstacle to growth and social cohesion. That is why the EU has put youth unemployment at the top of its agenda,” Vassiliou said.
European Commission estimates show that 20 million jobs could be created by 2020 in the green economy and 8 million in the health sector. Jobs for information and communications technology specialists have been growing by 3% a year, even during the crisis, and Europe will be short 700,000 ICT workers by 2015 at current trends.
“We need to better prepare our young people to fill these jobs and create new ones. Having the right skill set is crucial. Studying abroad or taking up a work placement in a foreign company, for example, improves language skills, adaptability and self-confidence,” she added.
Asked whether reducing the cost of starting up a business would be a way to boost youth entrepreneurship, the commissioner said it would be a good first step but not enough.
She added that the Commission must push member states to introduce simpler and faster administrative procedures to encourage new business start-ups and make entrepreneurial careers more attractive for young people.
Starting a business should cost not more than €100
“Our Europe-wide objective is to reduce the start-up time for new enterprises to three days and the cost to €100 by the end of this year. A lot of progress has already been achieved: in 2011, the average time and cost to start up a private limited company was 6.5 days and €397. In 2007, it was 12 days and € 485 and, in 2002, it took an average of 24 days to launch a firm at a cost of € 827,” she explained.
Vassiliou is confident that the new 'Erasmus for All' programme, due to start in 2014, will unleash a new entrepreneurial drive.
The new programme is aimed at creating 400 'Knowledge Alliances' and 'Sector Skills Alliances, which are large-scale partnerships between higher education institutions and businesses to promote creativity, innovation and entrepreneurship by offering learning opportunities and qualifications, also through new forms of vocational training.
Vassiliou spoke to EurActiv Managing Editor Daniela Vincenti. To read the full interview, please click here.