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Five Ways to Nurture Young Talent

How you can help build an entrepreneurial talent pipeline

Entrepreneurs are constantly focused on growing and nurturing their business for both present and future success. When it comes to future success, the entrepreneurs of today have a significant opportunity to help foster a pipeline of diverse and innovative entrepreneurial talent for tomorrow.

At EY, we work closely with entrepreneurs, many of whom tell us that they struggle to find employees with the know-how they need to compete in the global arena. In fact, one in three U.S. employers prefers hiring candidates with at least some entrepreneurial experience: people with a hunger for challenges, savvy communication skills and an inherent knack for turning obstacles into opportunities.

But, where are these impactful problem solvers coming from and how can they learn the skills to help your company succeed? Most U.S. middle and high schools don’t teach entrepreneurship, and many businesses have scrapped their learn-as-you-earn programs. We can’t just wait around, hoping to uncover these entrepreneurs; we have to educate and support them now to cultivate their success (and, in turn, our own) for the future.

Grooming tomorrow’s entrepreneurs

Through research around NFTE’s (Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship’s) Entrepreneurial Mindset Index, we’ve found that fostering an “entrepreneurial mindset” in young talent offers distinct payoffs for today’s entrepreneurs. Defined as a set of attitudes, skills and behaviors that students need to succeed, this mindset encourages young people to see entrepreneurship and self-employment as possible career paths and it may increase their intentions to start a business – a particularly important need as entrepreneurship has declined in recent decades.

For students whose entrepreneurial mindset improved through training, they:

  • Are twice as likely to have growth in their entrepreneurial self-efficacy
  • Are twice as likely to think about entrepreneurship as a skill that can be applied in any career
  • Have a 70% greater chance of wanting to own a business

Take, for example, Christina Williams, who won first place in a “shark-tank-style” business plan competition and walked away with $7,000 for Scribble, her book series about a Caribbean-American superhero who fights bullies. Now majoring in business at UCLA, she continues to build her entrepreneurial skills as an author and businesswoman. She credits her NFTE teacher for challenging her to think about how her business might make a difference in her community. Only then, she says, did she begin to consider how Scribble, which began as a personal project, could become a business.

This entrepreneurial mindset among young people can translate into greater interest in working in entrepreneurial environments and startups, offering new talent to today’s entrepreneurs who are hungry for engaged and energized employees to help them achieve their goals.

How you can help build an entrepreneurial talent pipeline

Whether you are part of a small startup or a Fortune 100 company, you can help instill an entrepreneurial mindset in youth and positively shape the future workforce. Here are a few ways to get started:

  1. Get involved with a youth entrepreneurship program. Find a community group that aligns with your purpose. Chapters of national organizations, such as NFTE and Junior Achievement, are good places to start, but also consider smaller, local nonprofits.
  2. Leverage your employees’ professional skills for volunteer programs focused on building entrepreneurial mindsets. At EY, our employee surveys show that people who participate in skills-based volunteer opportunities are more engaged with the firm, have better relationships with their managers, longer tenure and higher performance ratings. Firm-sponsored volunteer activities also help your employees expand their network and develop new leadership, business and cross-cultural teaming skills.
  3. Support a school or class and spark the entrepreneurial mindset. You can share a lesson with a class to highlight business concepts and spark new ideas. Host or judge a classroom business plan competition to identify which student business offers the most innovative, viable solution to a real-world problem. Or, host a field trip for students to tour your company, learn about its entrepreneurial ecosystem and potential future career opportunities.
  4. Mentor students to strengthen their entrepreneurial skills and mindsets or advise a student-run business on an ongoing basis. Consistent support and motivation provides them the opportunities for growth and future networking.
  5. Provide financial support for entrepreneurship programs and scholarships, and to advance research in assessing and developing the entrepreneurial mindset.

Tailor your efforts to align with your and your company’s strengths, skills and resources. As business challenges continue to evolve with the future of work, paving the way for future talent to bring their diverse and fresh perspectives will only become more important. By activating your company’s own entrepreneurial DNA now, you can help the next generation grow an entrepreneurial mindset and skill set that’s imperative for success in tomorrow’s working world.  

The views expressed by the authors are their own not necessarily those of the organizations they represent.

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