While the EU is marred by a severe debt crisis and a lackluster economic recovery, schools and companies are trying to make the changes necessary to adapt the workforce to new challenges and increase entrepreneurship and competitiveness.
At a 19 September event, a 'global enterprise project' was launched by the European Roundtable of Industrialists (ERT), Junior Achievement Young Enterprise (JA-YE), and the EU education ministries network Schoolnet.
The project will give school students practical exposure to company situations, and allow teachers from different countries to benefit from different experiences and best practices. It is managed by JA-YE in association with Schoolnet, and supported by 18 ERT members, plus the EU Comenius programme.
"Entrepreneurship is not only about creating your own business, but also innovating and creating new businesses inside of existing companies. It is about attitudes and taking responsibility for one's life and career," said Brian Ager, ERT secretary-general in an interview with EURACTIV.
Most new jobs in Europe are created by Small and Medium Sized companies, not by large corporations. Participants in early-stage entrepreneurship education are 4-5 times more likely to start their own business at a young age, and have high rates of employability in both the private and public sectors.
However, the European Commission estimates that less than 5% of young people in Europe receive entrepreneurship education in school.
Moreover, building early awareness of entrepreneurship to teenagers requires access of practitioners to schools, which is not easy in some countries. Traditionally, the private sector and the education systems have cooperated, if at all, mainly at university level.
Faced with the economic crisis and encouraged by the Europe 2020 framework, there is a better fit between EU SME and education policies, and the EU social funds. The initiative aims to improve cooperation between private and public stakeholders, and also within the European Commission itself.