Chile promotes entrepreneurship among young students

Workshops, contests and strategy games are only some of the initiatives that public and private organizations are implementing to promote an interest in business among secondary education students, with excellent results.

Extranjeros

Constanza Gómez was only 16 when she created her own company in 2007 at the Colegio Aconcagua in Quilpué. And although her PYME (small- and medium-sized organizations) was fictitious and created for pedagogical purposes, as General Manager she had to face any number of challenges, such as leading a work team, implementing plans of action, negotiating with suppliers, speaking in public and even firing her fellow workers.

The case of this young woman is only one of many initiatives that public and private institutions of the country are developing with a clear long-term objective: to awaken an entrepreneurial spirit in young people.

According to figures issued by the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor Assessment in its 2008-2009 report, global entrepreneurship declined 10% in the rich countries as a result of the crisis, whereas in Chile it grew 34%. In spite of this growth,  Chilean entrepreneurs continue to be around 40 years old on average when starting their business ventures.

In order to promote entrepreneurship from school age on and thus bring about a change in the above statistic, last year the Fundación para la Educación, el Desarrollo y la Cultura Regional, Fundar Región, launched a pioneering project to promote Entrepreneurship Skills’ Training at the technical secondary school level in Chile.

With the financial support of the Multilateral Investment Fund (MIF) of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and the Chile-Sweden Cooperation Fund  (Swedish institutions have been applying this model for many years), school students attended a series of workshops and conferences that resulted in 32 innovative business plan proposals that are currently being presented to the seed capital fund of the Technical Cooperation Service Sercotec in order to turn them into a reality.

Noteworthy among these initiatives are personnel transportation services for companies that work with night shifts; distribution services for vegetable and fruit products through the internet, and even a mobile spa.

“I think there is a need in Chile to train entrepreneurs for life, more than just for doing business”, explains Carlos Muñoz, president of the Foundation, with regard to the initiative.

Playing at being entrepreneurs

Just as teaching English has enabled countries to be globally competitive, education in entrepreneurship and innovation will be key elements to enhance that competitiveness in the future. Aware of this, the company Momento Cero created the first game for teaching entrepreneurship, called El Plan: la aventura de emprender (The Plan: the adventure of being an entrepreneur).

Based on theoretical elements related to real-world entrepreneurship, those who participate in this game have to enter the “Seed City” board game and represent a company. During the game, the entrepreneurs are faced with a series of issues typical of any business venture, such as economic crises, strikes, state subsidies and natural disasters, among others.

The winner is the person who manages to generate more innovative ideas. To achieve this, he/she must manage resources efficiently (money, energy and workers), plan appropriately, invest wisely, take risks with precaution and overcome the issues that arise in the best possible way.

“This game develops competencies and skills that will not only be useful in the field of business. It is necessary to teach students to tolerate frustration, be careful when taking risks, be persevering and work in teams”, says Elías Tefarikis, Development Manage of Momento Cero, with regard to this educational initiative launched in 2009.

“Emprendemil” Contest

Another project that aims at motivating the participation of young people and teaching them to recognize business opportunities in the market is “Emprendemil”, an entrepreneurship contest promoted by the Administration and Business School of  DuocUC and Sercotec.

Complemented by workshops and advisory assistance provided by the institute, young people from academic and technical secondary schools managed to produce  innovative business ideas such as bicycle tires with reflectant features to prevent street accidents, insect- and animal-repellent garbage bags, and even services to help young people with social and/or legal problems to lead more adjusted lives.

They all received prizes such as Notebook computers, Ipods and cameras. In addition, those who made first place won an internship at the Brazilian Micro and Small Business Support Service (Sebrae).

In turn, the new government of president Sebastián Piñera intends to include entrepreneurship training in his education program. In line with Mr. Piñera’s proposals, schooling will benefit from changes in curriculum, training teachers to include entrepreneurship values in the subjects they teach and improving the school texts, so that children will learn the values of entrepreneurship at school.

These are undoubtedly good initiatives, considering that according to the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor Assessment,  Chile needs to improve with regard to educating entrepreneurs. Seventy-seven percent of those questioned said they had only received informal education regarding how to create business, i.e., by reading books and observing others.

This post is also available in Spanish