Educating young people to be entrepreneurs
Young people should also have a vocation for entrepreneurship. If we give them the tools, perhaps they will be encouraged to become entrepreneurs. The Escola i Empresa programme of the Fundació d’Empresaris de Catalunya (FemCAT) was created with this aim in mind. We talked to its president and CEO of Vertix, Elena Massot.
The training offered by FemCAT is no small feat. In the ten years of activity, up to 770 teachers and 300 top-level entrepreneurs have given courses in high schools, and more than 100,000 students have benefited from them. Massot explains that the Escola i Empresa programme was created in 2009 to achieve “a positive and encouraging impact”, which would help to understand the importance of business in the country’s social fabric. In addition, it seeks to recognise the work of entrepreneurship. “We want to show the need for business in society, awaken interest in this world among young people, give an inspiring vision of business and, finally, show some of the skills that an entrepreneur needs”, summarises the president.
To convey the relevance of business, first-hand experience is very important, isn’t it?
That’s right. That’s why the activity is actually a dialogue between the entrepreneur, who is usually in a management position, and the students who take part in it. The speaker explains the relevance of the company in the social fabric and, more importantly, describes his or her experience. This allows the students to reflect on the skills that are necessary to take over a business. The conversation and reflection on the motivations that lead someone to start a business, the narration of the day-to-day life, helps students to highlight aspects of the business from a different perspective. Schools can receive these talks free of charge, and the speakers are volunteers.
Thus, the entire organisation is the responsibility of FemCAT
Yes, throughout the territory, several entities take on the coordination and contact with the centres in their area. In order for the speakers to participate, the Catalan organisations from the business world propose volunteers who are willing to explain their experience.
And during the pandemic, how did you organise the training sessions?
From the outset, and even more so during the pandemic, it is clear that we have seen the importance of local management. That’s why we have tried to keep the activity at the centre, and we have brought in speakers from companies located in the area and close to these centres. For business or economic promotion organisations, this training is an opportunity to get closer to the students and the local business fabric. In the end, the programme also helps to bring the entrepreneur closer to the territory, so that he/she can better understand the environment he/she is working in.
What feedback do you receive, both from students and speakers?
In order to maintain the quality of the programme, we always ask for an evaluation of the sessions, both from the speakers and the teaching staff. Using the Net Promoter Score, the teachers have evaluated this training with a median score of 85.71 out of 100. As for the speakers, they find the experience very rewarding, and most of them recommend that business people they know take part in it, because they can have a dialogue with the students. For our tenth birthday, for example, we conducted a survey in 106 schools across Catalonia that had participated in the programme and around sixty entrepreneurs. The result was encouraging: 98% of teachers believe that the students’ opinion of the business world has changed after the session. They found the programme to be enriching, motivating, and a useful window into the real world. For their part, the students become aware of the entire business network through real cases narrated in first person.
Do you hope to return to pre-pandemic activity this academic year?
Until the 2018-2019 academic year, the programme reached almost 15,000 students each year, with around 400 sessions throughout the country. And we have 160 active entrepreneurs participating in them. And this academic year has started with a good volume of requests from schools, so we think that, after two academic years marked by Covid-19, we will be able to reach 15,000 students again.
Do you do training courses in universities or for start-up companies beyond secondary schools?
Yes, because bringing business closer to society is one of the pillars of FemCAT’s activity. In addition to the dialogue with students, we also have the programme Periodisme i Empresa, through which we bring Catalan SMEs closer to journalism students through visits and talks. At the same time, we have had an agreement with the Catalan Parliament since 2007, thanks to which we organise visits to business sectors for members of parliament. We also work with universities and research centres to facilitate knowledge transfer contacts. Many FemCAT members collaborate with mentoring programmes in social entities and start-ups. We do not consider any of these activities to be conventional training. Rather, we propose an exchange, because FemCAT’s main strength is that it brings together active entrepreneurs, who transmit the challenges and potentials of Catalan business through their experiences.
Finally, what is the current state of the Catalan business fabric?
In the last fifteen years, we have lived through two very tough crises, and the pandemic has been a significant shock to the sector. Right now, the recovery is very uneven. There are sectors that have quickly recovered and have made up for lost time, but in others, it almost seems that the activity before the pandemic will never return. The ups and downs and uncertainty are still expected to continue, and it will require the business world to maintain the flexibility and speed of response that we have been forced to practise in recent months.
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