The EU co-funded project IncuVET (2014-2016) envisages to support and promote an innovative role for VET schools as local/regional hubs for entrepreneurship, beyond the mere provision of start-up advice. VET schools are in a position to stir a multi-stakeholder process where local authorities, employers, start-ups, teachers and students come together to shape the way entrepreneurship education is embedded in the curriculum and learn from each other in a collaborative way, with valuable impact on the schools, the students, the market and the community as a whole.
CHANGING MINDS The project provides an open space where all interested stakeholders (teachers, employers, entrepreneurs, students, local authorities, community organisations) will engage in a process of discovery and discussion in order to stretch the concept of the role that entrepreneurship should play in society and education.
UNLEASHING NEW IDEAS The project is run under the principle “No Idea Left Behind”. Creativity and sustainability deserve special attention. In order to provide the right conditions for new ideas to come to the surface connections with the real world, interdisciplinary and cross-sectorial cooperation stand out as crucial elements in the equation.
ADDING VALUE The project aims to propose and secure the conditions for some of these new ideas to abandon “Thoughtland” and morph into viable businesses, innovative products, disruptive services, new teaching methods, inclusive social schemes, cultural events, adding value and making a contribution to the economic, social, cultural and environmental development of the local markets and communities VET schools are incorporated into.
The incuVET project aims to strike the right balance and articulation between these three layers of intervention by tapping into and learning from existing initiatives. The project is based on the exchange of ideas, experiences and practices among the partners of the consortium through four workshops in the form of study visits to best practices in four European countries (Finland, Spain, Greece, Belgium) but also through the collaboration with new partners around Europe, contributing their knowledge and practices to the project knowledge base and information hub on entrepreneurship education in Europe and the role for VET schools in this respect.
IncuVET welcomes guest contributions from and is open to synergies and cooperation with actors involved in VET on Entrepreneurship Education:
You can contribute your own work, even original pieces not published elsewhere, informed by your own experiences in Entrepreneurship Education, inspired by texts, news or policy debates, preferably including a catchy headline, a concise and interesting abstract/introduction and a text of not more than 800 words. You can also share other, properly and accurately cited, input (publications, books, comments, posts, news, articles, videos, interviews, etc.), providing also links to the material, where applicable. The contributions will be shared with our target audience through the “Readings” section of our website, aiming to raise awareness and contribute towards the identification of the basic elements of an ideal VET school-based entrepreneurial support system. If you would like to contribute content please download and fill in the content template and submit it via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
VET systems across Europe can boast a wide diversity. However, many VET schools fail to acknowledge and come up to their essential role in securing a smooth transition for young people into the world of work. Whereas integration of start-up pre-incubation services feels like second nature to Higher Education Institutions, oddly enough like-minded initiatives in VET schools are scarce despite the fact that it should make perfect sense, as most have often managed to develop close-knit networks with local employers.
This cooperation with local businesses in the shape of apprenticeship schemes and other actions constitute consolidated practices that would help explain the growing popularity of the vocational tracks.
There is a raft of sound practices which is slowly but firmly fighting against old-fashioned perceptions and prejudices towards VET.
With a highly relevant curriculum and close connections with the marketplace, VET schools are in an unbeatable position to put forward an ambitious entrepreneurship education agenda. Ad-hoc subjects have been designed and embedded in national VET curricula together with widely adopted mini-company schemes and business ideas contests. Quite interestingly, this already positive picture has been enriched in the last years with the irruption of a growing concern about the pedagogical aspects of entrepreneurship.
In spite of its low prevalence, the integration of start-up incubation units in VET schools could start boasting about some promising results in terms of business creation and survival rates of companies started by VET students. Just this fact, makes it worth having a proper look at the start-up pre-incubation services put in place in order to identify essential elements to scale them up.
VET schools could further support the entrepreneurial aspirations of some of their students by transforming themselves into regional/local hubs for entrepreneurship. Far from being a utopian vision, such exercise may just require a slight reframing of the school mission and actions already in place.
The overall vision underpinning the incuVET project contemplates, “an improved understanding and better rounded provision of Entrepreneurial Education and Start-up Support in VET Schools”. In this line, the incuVET consortium is set to identify basic elements of an ideal VET school-based entrepreneurial support system, drawing on existing initiatives and best practices among the consortium and beyond, and to provide an information hub to collect material, stir the debate and discussion, in an effort to embed some of the learning taking place during the project lifetime into the VET school structures.
The main tool of the incuVET project will be the organization of four (4) thematic workshops/study visits at the premises of different organizations involved in the project, which constitute best practices of entrepreneurship education in Europe. Read more about the workshops here
During the incuVET project implementation period, four (4) thematic workshops/study visits will take place at the premises of different organizations involved in the project.
Each workshop will contribute to the co-production of a vision of success shared by all partners. This entails taking stock of the experience brought to the partnership by different organizations involved in entrepreneurship education and the role of VET schools in this respect in view of setting up a valuable baseline. After each workshop knowledge will be shared with colleagues and all members of our community and target groups comprising VET school and other key local stakeholders at the local level.
InnoOmnia, an innovation development unit within Omnia with entrepreneurship at its heart represents a good benchmark initiative to set the tone of the project. Partners got familiar with this interesting experience of whole-school approach to entrepreneurship in VET.
The second workshop will place its focus on pre-incubation and start-up support in VET Schools. Partners will share and discuss the pros and cons of different services and tools. Spanish project leader Valnalon and partner Tknika as workshop hosts will walk partners through different initiatives to integrate start-up incubator in a local VET School.
The third workshop broadens the scope in order to accommodate a wider perspective of the role teachers and students should play in the development of entrepreneurship key competence paying attention to specific initiatives geared towards the development of entrepreneurial dispositions such as workshops for personal and professional development (STARS Success Yourself), accredited by the International Coach Federation.
The fourth workshop will tap into the role networks play in shaping a sound entrepreneurial ecosystem in VET. Quality of entrepreneurial support in VET is greatly influenced by the interplay of three essential stakeholder groups: Policymakers, VET Schools and Employers. The apprenticeship system stands out as a key arena where such collaboration takes place. The network of SYNTRA Flanders and SYNTRA training centers has developed methodologies and experiences on the development of the entrepreneurial spirit and the entrepreneurial competences of young people within the apprenticeship system.
Last year in Riga, the Ministers in charge of vocational education and training agreed on a set of five medium-term deliverables that will inform the implementation of VET reforms for the period 2015-2020. Not surprisingly, stimulating entrepreneurship and innovation and strengthening entrepreneurship as a key competence will be pivotal in our efforts to increase the relevance, adaptability, quality and efficiency of VET systems and ultimately impact on enterprise performance, job creation and employability further down the line.
In fact entrepreneurship education is well under way in VET. Currently, it is mentioned as a cross-curricular objective in 15 European countries/regions for school-based IVET, and it is also commonly offered as a separate subject either compulsory for all students (9 countries) or optional (10 countries).
The embedment of entrepreneurship in VET schools is the result of a complex intertwining of national, regional, and local level strategies, action plans, curricula and other initiatives cutting across different policy areas (education, work, employment, innovation) and bringing in the perspectives of a broad constituency of stakeholders (educators, employers, policymakers). Arguably, that may partly explain why “the majority of countries/regions have not yet embedded entrepreneurship education in a truly systematic and comprehensive way”.
Although the examples identified here are far from comprehensive, INCUVET study visits have yielded an in-depth look at how policymaking is articulated and implemented in three specific locations.
Research indicates that teacher training in entrepreneurship seems to be the main factor determining the observable entrepreneurship education provided by the teachers. That same piece of research indicates that Finnish VET teachers are well ahead of their colleagues in other education levels when it comes to frequency in adopting entrepreneurship education practices such as business projects, company visits and joint projects. Whether this is the case in other European countries remains to be seen. In any case, there’s no shortage of CPD training opportunities for iVET teachers across Europe.
By the same token VET Schools can greatly enhance the enabling role of teachers in the design and implementation of entrepreneurship education. The Budapest Agenda urged schools to engage in partnerships, networking and good practice exchange with other schools at local, regional, national and EU level. This may involve EU-funded mobilities and study visits for students and teachers but also virtual methods of know-how exchange such as grassroots online teacher communities.
A clear example of this we could find could be the Open Education Europa portal, an initiative of the European Commission offering access to all existing European Open Educational Resources in different languages in order to be able to present them to learners, teachers and researchers.
Even before the broad definition of entrepreneurship education became common currency, start-up support had already been included in the portfolio of services of VET schools. Start-up support measures dovetail with existing curricular initiatives (eg. specific entrepreneurship subjects) in a somewhat coherent progression for those students and alumni willing to take the self-employment route. In line with other Youth entrepreneurship schemes, VET schools “offer all-round support throughout the different stages of the entrepreneurial process, from the conceptualisation of the business idea to the actual launch and development of the business”. This is achieved with a combination of entrepreneurship training, personalized advice, mentoring and coaching and access to office/workshop space.
Business advising role is becoming an integral part of the competence profile of VET Entrepreneurship teachers/Entrepreneurship coordinators. This requires reinforcing their confidence and updating knowledge through specific training.
Ideally CPD training should go hand in hand with reduced lesson time so that efforts can be geared towards supporting student entrepreneurs. Setting up partnerships with local business incubators, employers associations and other business support agencies do also represent complementary/alternative ways of enhancing the quality and efficiency of start-up support provided at VET Schools.
Interestingly some VET schools are going the extra-mile to position themselves as entrepreneurial hubs. Expertise and equipment is put at the disposal of local start-ups and SMEs with reduced R&D capabilities through partnership projects.
In spite of the sheer diversity of VET systems in Europe, there are some key characteristics that make VET schools a potential breeding ground for creativity, entrepreneurship and innovation: Learners have different educational, occupational and skills backgrounds, the learning is highly contextualized and related to the workplace, and there are some specific issues affecting the vocational pedagogy, teaching and assessment largely derived from the opportunities and limitations of the different models of work-based learning adopted:
In stark contrast to the prevailing simplistic view that start-up training is the only thing that matters in VET, lots of pedagogical experimentation and innovation is currently underway in the schools we’ve visited. The widespread use (and abuse) of business planning and mini-company schemes should not be allowed to obscure the fact that an ever-expanding repertoire of teaching and learning methods is slowly taking center stage: project-based work, practical challenges, community challenges as well as some trailblazing efforts to break down silos.
The adoption of whole-school approaches to entrepreneurship has been discussed at large in recent years. To put it succinctly, we reproduce here the statement found in the European Business Forum on Vocational Training 2014:
“If the entrepreneurial skills of the VET students’ needs to be improved, the whole education system should be much more focused on entrepreneurial attitudes. This does not only imply that local VET institutions put more emphasis on entrepreneurial learning. They also need to be more entrepreneurial themselves by collaborating with business and providing an entrepreneurial environment for staff and students with entrepreneurship permeating all learning activities.”(p.17)
The implications of such statement are manifold and ripple through the whole school structure, actors and actions. It entails creating school level plans (shared definition, goals and actions), appointing school entrepreneurship coordinators, training and supporting teachers, stimulating cooperation with local employers, drawing on the skills and talents of student and alumni, and stimulating networking, mobility and know-how exchange with other schools at local/regional/national and EU level.
Institutional change requires sound governance and leadership in order to create an inclusive vision and school policy that incorporates the views of a broad range of stakeholders while aligning existing and future provision. Yet, VET schools do not exist in a vacuum, and such a challenging transition could be largely facilitated by supportive policies as demonstrated in the following inspiring examples:
A hub is the central part of a wheel that connects the axle to the wheel itself. Many expressions use the term for a literal or figurative central structure connecting to a periphery. A VET School as an entrepreneurial hub that is not connected, that has no links with relevant stakeholders, doesn’t make any sense at all.
Connections with entrepreneurs are essential: they have experience and knowledge that they can share, and they can motivate young people. Building a network with the (local) business community is thus an import step for VET-Schools in becoming an entrepreneurial hub. Involvement of employer’s organisations is recommended.
The positive effects of business-VET collaboration in the development of entrepreneurial competences are emphasized by representatives of big enterprises, SME organisations, social partners, sector organisations, chambers of commerce and VET providers alike.
In VET there’s a whole range of different ways that employers can support the learning and progression of students via apprenticeships, mentoring schemes, company visits, job shadowing and other partnership projects. Enhanced motivation, improved attainment and increased employability are often cited among the typical benefits of employer engagement in education although “there is a particular shortage of studies of employers’ links with education that have used robust research designs”. Further research is also needed to gauge its specific impact in the development of entrepreneurial attitudes, skills and/or intentions.
Not all entrepreneurs are working in the business community: a lot of entrepreneurial activities are going on in the not-for-profit sector (arts, culture, health care, …). It is highly recommended that young people can have a taste of the broad scope of entrepreneurial activities. Contacts with the not-for-profit sector are an asset!
It is essential to devise sound and flexible mechanisms of cooperation In order to make these benefits and opportunities visible and appealing for employers while taking the administrative burden off their shoulders. On the other hand, impact will be maximized if teachers and employers co-design and co-evaluate interventions with a shared vision on the (entrepreneurial) learning outcomes to be attained. This is particularly relevant in apprenticeships and other types of work placements where putting the focus on entrepreneurial skills may require specific training for company supervisors.
A partnership with local government can add support, not only in terms of money but also in other terms like networking or promotion of the activities of Entrepreneurial VET Schools.
Assessing the impact of whole-school approaches to entrepreneurship requires determining a point of reference. Establishing a baseline against which we can measure progress is definitely a must and the good news is that we have some tools at our disposal enabling a multi-dimensional self-assessment of entrepreneurship education at our VET institution. https://heinnovate.eu/
The establishment of a shared set of long-term goals (eg. intended entrepreneurial learning outcomes) and the creation of models that outline causal linkages and progression between short-term, intermediate and longer term learning outcomes is a clearly underdeveloped area. Ideally this process should precede and inform the decisions made on forms of intervention to achieve those outcomes. Some promising assessment tools combining self, peer and teacher perceptions have been developed although seemingly detached from a clear progression model.
Last but not least, the evaluation of start-up support in VET schools resonates with concerns voiced for other Youth Entrepreneurship schemes regarding the need to move from monitoring-type exercises to more experimental evaluations undertaken by independent researchers in order to assess long-term impact based on a set of quantitative and qualitative indicators previously defined.
Bridging the gap between policy, practice and research entails identifying appropriate knowledge brokers and the most suitable scenarios to share evidence and carry out joint-research projects across the board. This must be much of a burden to individual schools unless they join forces with brokering organisations, research institutions and educational authorities.
Have fun while teaching entrepreneurship in VET! Have a look at the interactive comic e-book developed by an EU project and selected as good practice under the Lifelong Learning Programme 2007-2013.. More here
Developing and promoting entrepreneurship education has been one of the key EU policy objectives. Indeed, in the context of high youth unemployment, economic crises and rapid changes related to our complex knowledge-based economy and society, transversal skills such as entrepreneurship are essential not only to shape the mindsets of young people, but also to provide the skills, knowledge and attitudes that are central to developing an entrepreneurial culture in Europe. However, although some countries have already been committed to fostering entrepreneurship education for more than a decade, others are just starting. Following the 2012 Eurydice report on entrepreneurship education, this new analysis captures the latest developments in Europe, focusing on primary education, lower and general upper secondary education as well as school-based initial vocational education and training. More here
“Plain common sense seems to suggest apprenticeships could be used to further advance the acquisition of entrepreneurial skills but regardless of such potential, experts acknowledge most apprenticeship schemes currently in place do no explicitly train entrepreneurship skills.” (OECD, 2010). The title is an attempt to capture what has been a recurring issue in our ongoing efforts and discussions to pin down the essential defining features of a truly entrepreneurial VET School under the frame of the EU-funded project IncuVET - VET Schools as Entrepreneurial Hubs. Finding common ground for VET apprenticeships and entrepreneurship is not an easy task. More here
New innovations are necessary to ensure and enforce entrepreneurship skill development and working-life-centricity in vocational education. We present an example from Finland. InnoOmnia is a multi-actor knowledge community within a VET organisation. It brings together students, entrepreneurs, and teachers in a non-formal setting where traditional roles are revamped. A number of traditional silos have been broken in order to build a co-learning innovation environment. The transition is not painless, however. Using a large dataset of text and visual content, we identify tensions relating to the transition. The tensions fall under the themes of community borders, operational culture, structures and leadership. InnoOmnia is not perceived as one community. Rather, every participant seems to have his or her own representation of it. Based on these differences, conflicts arise. Our research indicates that an innovative, entrepreneurial community inevitably contains destructive and conflicting forces as well. A key force counterbalancing the tensions is enthusiasm. More here
The global crisis has increased unemployment in the EU to unprecedented levels, yet many employers claim they have difficulties finding skilled workers to fill their vacancies. This report shows that most vacancy bottlenecks arise because of factors other than general skill deficits, including job offers of poor quality. Genuine skill shortages affect a small group of dynamic, internationally oriented European enterprises in specific economic sectors (health and social care, ICT, advanced manufacturing). To mitigate skill bottlenecks, European companies must commit to offering high-quality apprenticeship places and good-quality jobs, which can be supported as part of a process of social dialogue between VET providers and labour market actors. Ultimately, the business and product market strategies of a greater share of European firms will have to become reliant on higher skill needs. The role of VET in developing creativity and entrepreneurial capacity in the European workforce will be crucial. More here
Recent research has highlighted the importance of entrepreneurship skills to small business performance. Although there are quite extensive literatures dealing with management and leadership skills more generally, relatively little is known about these particular skill-sets. This project sought to source the key components of ‘entrepreneurship skills’, to identify how they can and cannot be developed, and to draw out possible lessons for UK policy. The review finds that entrepreneurship skills are associated with competence in the process of opportunity identification (and/or creation), the ability to capitalise on identified opportunities and a range of skills associated with developing and implementing business plans to enable such opportunities to be realised. This definition is distinct from, but closely related to, accepted definitions of management and leadership skills. There is evidence that some entrepreneurship skills can be taught and/or learned. However entrepreneurs tend to learn less effectively from the conventional didactic approaches typical of much of the educational sector. The most effective approaches to developing entrepreneurship skills involve experiential learning based around task-oriented development focused on real business problems. More here
Young people have never left education more highly qualified and with more years of schooling to their names and yet face record levels of unemployment, too often losing out to older workers in the competition for employment. This new report features interviews with eight leading commentators on the relationship between education and employment. The interviews highlight ways in which the labour market has become more hostile to young people over the last generation. Three key themes emerge: the labour market is more complex and opaque than in the last increasing the significance of careers education especially where it is rich in direct workplace contacts; school to work transitions have become more fractured than in the past demanding new recruitment skills and resiliency from young people; and, employers offering jobs with greatest prospects have changed requirements, expecting young people to be personally effective in applying knowledge in unfamiliar situations demanding that schools place greater emphasis on applied learning and enterprise education.[...]. More here
On September 2014, 345 participants from the worlds of business, policy, education and training met in Brussels to take part in the second Business Forum on Vocational Training. The overarching theme for the Forum was “Business & VET - Partners for Growth and Competitiveness”. The Forum included three targeted workshop sessions and two panel debates. The titles of the workshops, which followed the topics of the Forum, were: Workshop 1 - Meeting skills needs in key sectors // Workshop 2 - Working together on entrepreneurial skills // Workshop 3 - Developing apprenticeships in companies. More here
The survey analysis summarises the findings of 91 interviews conducted among large European enterprises, vocational education and training (VET) providers, social partners and sector organisations on challenges and practices related to business-VET collaboration focusing on three main topics: meeting skill needs in sectors of key strategic importance to the EU; business-VET cooperation on entrepreneurial skills; and developing high-quality apprenticeships. The survey was part of the preparation for the second European Business Forum on Vocational Training to hold in Brussels on 23-24 September 2014 under the heading “Business & VET - Partners for Growth and Competitiveness”. The Forum is a high-level event that takes place every two years with participation of all relevant stakeholders from different levels (EU, national, regional, etc.), such as policy makers, companies, SMEs, social partners, VET providers, teachers and trainers, entrepreneurs, guidance practitioners, human resources experts as well as youth and student organisations. More here
This report aims to provide a critical review of research and public policy literature concerned with the characteristics of engagement between employers and schools, focusing on school provision for the age group11-18: it does not examine provision in Further Education Colleges or Apprenticeships. More here
Join us from 9:00 am to 12:30 pm at the premises of project partner European Vocational Training Association (EVTA), Rue de la Loi 93-97, 1040
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