Thursday, 27 August 2015

Education for social entrepreneurship

Social entrepreneurship is important because it blurs the line between for-profit and non-profit enterprises, simultaneously opening opportunities between the two where both profit and positive social impact are desired outcomes. At the heart of social entrepreneurship lies the notion of using business principles, strategies and actions to have a positive effect on the wider community and society as a whole. While definitions of the term "social entrepreneur" differ, there's little doubt that the sentiment behind it springs from broader social concerns that are informing today's generation. Students today want make their own contributions to the burning issues of their generation: the environment, world poverty and healthcare. This is where the wellspring of social entrepreneurship lies. Taking aim at these issues using the principles of social entrepreneurship helps to create new solutions, not least because social entrepreneurship reframes the issues in a broader context. Social entrepreneurship education helps to refocus the lens and produce individuals who have the type of skills that can drive change in business objectives and solve social problems. Consequently many institutions of higher learning have recognised the importance of social entrepreneurship by creating formal courses, often as sub-courses in degrees like MBA's.

Social entrepreneurs as young leaders

Young social entrepreneurs can play a leadership role by infusing traditional business objectives with a social mission. The educational institutions charged with producing these young leaders need to make provision for them to learn the skills they need to reframe issues and create sustainable solutions out in the corporate world. It's as much an existential issue as it is a practical one. Social entrepreneurship helps to answer some of the bigger questions that students and potential leaders encounter at tertiary institutions: "What is the broader purpose of my studies?", "Why am I'm studying?" and "What am I going to do with what I have learnt?". Institutions can help with this, not only by offering formal courses in social entrepreneurship, but by creating a conducive environment. Teaching social entrepreneurship is thus a key part of solving broader social issues. Entrepreneurial leadership is characterised by drive and determination, the willingness to fail and persevere, and the ability to apply knowledge productively. These are also the characteristics of good leaders. So one can see how creating good leadership as well as social entrepreneurship are mutually reinforcing endeavours.

Social entrepreneurship in developing countries

The developing world is often a rich source of social entrepreneurship, for the simple reason that, in countries where poverty and a lack of infrastructure pose enormous challenges, the focus becomes using innovation, flair and determination to solve very basic social problems. This is an environment in which social entrepreneurship thrives. Most of this social entrepreneurship is focused internally on the countries' own markets, and on addressing daily social problems. The knock-on effect is that companies and other organisations from the developed world are able to take up these social entrepreneurship ideas themselves, and use them in other contexts where they will prove to be of value in addressing similar issues. Education often follows on, with tertiary institutions taking the lead from these companies and organisations and starting to include new social entrepreneurship ideas in their curricula in one way or another. And it is through this social entrepreneurship education that a new generation of students is given the skills and tools to make an impact once they have graduated.

Thursday, 13 August 2015

The Role of Apprenticeships

Apprenticeship is a powerful way of training someone into a particular career, job or skill set. It is especially useful in a developing economy where access to formal education may be limited and unemployment at a relatively high level. It represents an excellent way of bridging the gap between secondary education and tertiary education, playing the role of feeding skilled people into the workforce. Apprenticeship has the dual effect of filling a skills gap for an industry and training a person to have the necessary skills to forge a successful career.

Apprenticeship is the term commonly applied to blue collar trades and occupations, as distinct from the term learnership, which applies more to white collar vocations. 

A three-way partnership

Apprenticeships work best for the economy when there is a partnership between business, tertiary education organisations like technical colleges, and government. This partnership encourages education, economic development and workforce development. Implemented properly it financially benefits not only the individual but also the employer and the country.

The ideal combination is to supplement on the job training with some form of classroom instruction. This gives the apprentice the best of both worlds – theoretical instruction and practical application in a real-world environment. 

Apprenticeships are a cost-effective way for employers to train employees. Businesses are investing in training the next generation of the workforce, typically at a lower cost than putting an employee through a tertiary education qualification, and they also get the benefit of having an active employee while the training is occurring. The cost to the employer is less, because they typically pay the apprentice a lower wage than the average worker. This amount increases as the apprentice advances in the apprenticeship. As the apprentices earn more they also pay more tax, bringing a further benefit to the economy.

It also costs the government less to run apprenticeships than traditional education programmes because the employer assists in covering the cost of the education. This is a good example of a win-win partnership between government and private enterprise.

Community and individual benefits

Apprentices earn money while they learn on the job. This allows them to make a contribution to the economy while they are still learning and growing in their occupations. They spend their money in the local communities and thus help to stimulate the local economy. This is completely the reverse situation from the tertiary education scenario where students do not contribute as much to the economy due to lack of funds; instead they typically borrow from the economy in one form or another – for example, by taking out student loans.

Apprenticeships also help to grow the local and surrounding economies through entrepreneurship and job creation. Someone who completes an apprenticeship as a plumber may go on to start a plumbing company and employ others.
Apprentices may also receive other benefits from their employers, such as medical aid assistance, which further relieves the pressure on the public health system.

It is generally the case that once the apprenticeship programme has been completed, those who have participated as apprentices have higher annual earnings than those who have not been apprentices. They get an education that is supplemented by on the job training and end up with a sustainable career path.

There is also a psychological benefit in that they feel more productive and more part of meaningful economic activity while they are training.