Europe is seeing a resurgence of innovation and enterprise, but its education system – a key part of creating a new business culture – is often still too traditional and closed to changes, according to Johan Andresen, a Norwegian businessman working to promote entrepreneurial education.
Andresen has worked closely with Junior Achievements Europe (JA), an NGO that provides specialised education programmes to stimulate entrepreneurship, innovation and leadership. To promote their work, he has created Ferd’s list, which showcases the success of students who had taken JA programmes.
“I think this has huge implications for Europe. We need to create new jobs, we need people to create innovations within their own companies. I even had the idea that we need entrepreneurship within the public system, it needs to become much more innovative, flexible. This shows the potential of Europe”, Andresen said.
With the “exponential progress” of technology, “there needs to be a much more pragmatic approach. The school bureaucrats, teachers organisations, some are understanding and some are resisting heavily,” Andresen told EURACTIV.com on the sidelines of an event presenting six Ferd’s list 2018 honourees in Brussels.
“In many parts of Europe, the school system is very difficult to come in and even talk about, even in Norway we didn’t manage to get the word entrepreneur in teachers’ education.”
“There is a lack of understanding that there needs to be a much broader approach to making young people ready for jobs, for society, than theoretical teaching. We’ve gone too far in believing that every generation will get better and higher education than their parents. The skills are not necessarily the same that your parents needed, the jobs are not necessarily there.”
Even though the Anglo-Saxon culture still holds the upper hand with universities like MIT, Stanford or Oxford, “the types of ecosystems we’ve been lacking somewhat in Europe”, Andresen was not pessimistic about Europe catching up.
“If you had asked me five years ago, I would have hesitated a little bit and said yeah, there’s probably something to it [Europe lagging behind]. But I think there is another Europe than the one many people see, and this is the younger generations, between 18 and 30.”
“There are great things happening in many parts of Europe that always surprise me in a positive way, the entrepreneurial spirit in the Baltics, the resurgence of Berlin as an innovative city, things that were kind of lost have re-surged.”
He said JA was doing tremendous work and “touching millions every year” but the main challenge was that this type of NGO “is a little bit under the radar in many places in Europe”.
“Therefore, one of our big challenges is that most sponsors are American companies. Why is that? There could be many large international, European companies that would see the same type of opportunities that the Americans are seeing. This is kind of strange, but that is also the potential.”
He said the Americans were not it in for “pure altruism”. “And Europeans shouldn’t be either. there is great win-win in helping young people succeed, release their potential. That’s the way you grow your society, you recruit,” he concluded.