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How teaching entrepreneurship too late is holding SA back

Entrepreneurship should be encouraged and fostered from a high school level, writes Jessica Cilliers


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In South Africa, most of the focus on entrepreneurship is happening too late.

Not all cultures have benefited from dining room table discussions, or seeing it positively in action through family members.

For many, the exposure to entrepreneurship comes too late, and this means that a solid foundation is not set early enough.

Entrepreneurship should be encouraged and fostered from a high school level. While there are a few privileged schools that do include it in their curriculum, the reach needs to be far beyond that.

For example, for those who attend a technical high school – learning a skill to become a plumber or electrician is one thing, running your own thriving small business is another.

The question is how to holistically integrate entrepreneurship into the formal learning years across the various differing schooling and learning institutions? In essence, entrepreneurship and small business development need to be taken seriously, even in the formative years.

A viable career path

Entrepreneurship is a viable career option and needs to be celebrated as such. It should not be viewed as just a second rate choice - "I couldn’t get a job so I became an entrepreneur."  

Sometimes a lack of understanding and support from family members or friends is challenging. You don’t have to explain why you are in human resources, for example, but you do feel the need to explain why you are an entrepreneur or wanting to start your own businesses. Deep down, you know that someone is thinking 'why doesn’t he/she get a real job?'

Being an entrepreneur takes real courage. You have to be tenacious, resilient, and deal quickly with your fear of failure. Failure needs to be embraced as a way of learning - learning to fail forward. So, the earlier you are exposed to entrepreneurship the higher the level of comfort you will experience.

Even those that graduate with a tertiary education/qualification, will also only come out with some understanding of entrepreneurship if they grow up with an entrepreneurial mindset. Most people struggle with how to maintain this mindset and to progress to the next level. You can’t do it alone.

The genuine entrepreneur needs to be supported throughout the journey. No man is an island and the journey can be terribly lonely. That is why mentorship plays such a valuable support role. Develop a culture of ongoing learning and increase your appetite for learning.

Entrepreneurs cannot afford to be shy. Confident people are not afraid to ask questions, learn from others and approach people. Foster a learning mentality and this will assist you with maintaining a growth mindset - this is a great asset for any entrepreneur.

About the author: Jessica Cilliers is the public relations and marketing manager at The Hope Factory NPC a enterprise and supplier development non-profit company, which is part of Nation Building at the South African Institute of Chartered Accountants (SAICA).  She is passionate about bringing hope to the nation through entrepreneurship.

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