Credit: Vanessa Martins Lopes, CEO and cofounder of the Wild Curl
Vanessa Martins Lopes

By Vanessa Martins Lopes

Entrepreneurship is as much a part of our everyday lives as geometry or biology. The number of startups in Europe has been growing about 20% each year since 2014; they are now one of the key engines of economic growth in Europe. 

But people often grow up falsely believing that entrepreneurship isn’t for them without money or family ties. 

We won’t change that trend without drastic action. And it’s why entrepreneurship should be introduced as a compulsory subject from secondary level upwards across Europe. 

Training is necessary if Europe is going to continue to nurture talent, create great companies and compete on a global scale. Mandatory classes on the subject would demystify the process and encourage company creation by more diverse founders.

Training is necessary if Europe is going to continue to nurture talent, create great companies and compete on a global scale.

We’re already falling behind; the US has witnessed an increase in the number and variety of small business management and entrepreneurship courses offered at college and university levels since 1990 as students became dissatisfied with the conventional focus on getting Fortune 500 jobs.

A complex set of necessary skills

Not every teen wants to grow up to be an entrepreneur. The majority won’t pursue an entrepreneurship degree. So why make classes on the subject mandatory?

I grew up in Finland, where the educational system has a very high reputation internationally. Despite this, entrepreneurship was never promoted until university, when many of us had already decided which careers to pursue. And if we were interested in founding a company, we didn’t believe that we had the resources or expertise to pursue our dreams.

Today, more than two-thirds of all European countries integrate entrepreneurship education as an optional subject. It is less likely to reach all students in countries where entrepreneurship is an optional rather than compulsory subject and where it is not a cross-curricular theme. 

If the student is not exposed to entrepreneurship by their family and doesn’t receive it through education, what is the likelihood that they want to pursue that path? 

It’s also worth noting that many skills involved in entrepreneurship translate well to other aspects of life and give students real-world skills even if they don’t decide to become company-builders. An entrepreneurship-focused curriculum would include the following:

  • Leadership
  • Negotiating tactics
  • Marketing
  • Financial planning
  • Researching
  • Critical thinking
  • Project management

If taught as a series of courses, entrepreneurship is no more complex to grasp than mathematics or history. 

Some might wonder why training needs to be done in schools. Can’t the private sector step in? But entrepreneurship shouldn’t be just encouraged by the private sector, otherwise, the reach to scout diverse talent and encourage young students to participate from different socioeconomic backgrounds might not be enough.

On the other hand, public entities may not have all the resources in terms of specialities and funding on their own. Thus, collaborative initiatives across government and the private sector are needed to solve this challenge. 

Encouraging diverse entrepreneurs

The world’s richest business owners are predominantly white and male. Entrepreneurs also tend to come from wealthy backgrounds, where the resources to start a business are more plentiful. 

If a student looks at a world of business that doesn’t reflect them, is given no tools to understand that world, and doesn’t have a family background in business, entering that world will be very difficult. 

I come from Finland, from a low-income family with a very labour-driven mindset. Even with an amazing educational background in the best engineering school in Finland followed by a Neuroscience degree in Barcelona, I was never exposed to the entrepreneurial world. However, despite all odds, I managed to successfully raise £95k as one of Europe’s few BAME founders. 

Besides all the hard work I put behind this, I was also lucky to have a co-founder, Albert, by my side. Having grown up in a family of risk-taking business owners, he was more familiar with the topic. I, on the other hand, felt like I had the skills of a secondary school student taking a crash course in entrepreneurship despite all of my other academic achievements. 

The world is changing, so should the way we educate our children

By teaching entrepreneurship skills as the default rather than as an afterthought, students are empowered to enter a world that would otherwise remain closed to them. 

This goes beyond teaching them useful skills. It also makes them aware of their options, of the questions they would otherwise not know to ask. 

At the moment, entrepreneurship is an enigma to many students due to a lack of education. The good news is that this doesn’t need to continue. Schools just need to make the effort.

Vanessa Martins Lopes is CEO and cofounder of the Wild Curl.

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Nic Lenz
Nic Lenz

Great piece Vanessa. I couldn’t agree more!

Sam smith
Sam smith

Hi Vanessa, I couldn’t agree more with you. It is something I am currently campaining for in the UK and would love your help! We have something called The Side Hustle which is a nationwide competition for 14-18 year olds with a £10,000 prize and some of the ideas were amazing! Sam