Education, Employment, Higher Education and VET – does Entrepreneurship fit?

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From a policy and program point of view, in Australia, there is strong support for business growth, innovation and startups,

Innovation policy was at the top of the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) Industry and Skills Council meeting… (see press release 5.11.15)

Recent Australian Government announcements include:

·        $5 Billion Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility

·        Grants to trigger investment and growth in Melbourne’s North

·        $7.3m to support innovative Australian companies

·        Time is right for Sydney Silicon Harbour

Alongside The Prime Minister of Australia, The Hon Malcolm Turnball MP, Hon Josh Frydenberg MP, Minister for Resources, Energy and Northern Australia and Hon Wyatt Roy MP, Assistant Minister for Innovation seem to be the government’s startup advocates.

Austrade has also established a Free Trade Agreement Training Provider Grant to “… help Australian small and medium-sized enterprises and stakeholders understand how to use and access FTAs with Korea, Japan, and China.”

So it seems we have improving policy setting for innovation and startups in the Industry, Innovation and Science portfolios, Trade and Investment but what about education, employment, higher education, international education and Vocational higher Educational employment Training (VET)?

Whilst we focus on innovation, commercialisation of ideas we don’t seem to talk as much about entrepreneurship, essentially making sales (more often with social outcomes too) and being able to do that on a big, global scale.

And please don’t misunderstand the key message in this blog post.  This is not about government giving grants, funding or somehow subsidising businesses as a true enterprise must be able to do this for itself.  Moreover, this is about including entrepreneurship and/or entrepreneurial experiences in education, employment and VET.  Because more Australians need to see that they can be entrepreneurs, earlier in their life without it being seen as too risky or not a real job.

Can Entrepreneurship be taught?

Short answer is probably not but entrepreneurial activities and experiences should be embedded in all levels of education.

Now Gary Vaynerchuk builds businesses and he believes that Entrepreneurship: Can’t Be Taught (NB. Gary swears a bit, just so you know) describing entrepreneurship as something much more rugged.

If you haven’t heard of Gary V, fresh out of college he took his family wine business and grew it from a $3M to a $60M business in just five years.  Now he runs VaynerMedia, one of the world’s hottest digital agencies.

Along the way he became a prolific angel investor and venture capitalist, investing in companies like Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Uber, and Birchbox before eventually co-founding VaynerRSE, a $25M angel fund.

Gary V’s best piece of advice in this video is to audit who you are, become more self-aware and bet on your strengths, which to me connects to emotional intelligence and enterprise development.

Witnessing young entrepreneurs participating in intensive entrepreneurial experiences like BO$$ camp, Getting Down to Business, SAYES, Startup Weekend and Venture Dorm you’ll see amazing transformations and pursuit of business opportunities.

Every young person should have exposure to multiple entrepreneurial educational experiences from primary school.

Why is Entrepreneurship not considered with Employment?

The Department of Employment has numerous programs aimed at reducing unemployment including:

When searching the website and programme guidelines entrepreneurship is nowhere to be found other than self-employment with the New Enterprise Incentive Scheme.

Imagine if a simple change of employment AND entrepreneurship was included in all employment initiatives.

Why is Entrepreneurship missing in VET?

Underpinning Australia’s VET system is National Training Packages outlining qualifications and skills described in units of competency.

One of the biggest areas of gaps or mismatch from national and state priorities in National Training Packages is entrepreneurship.  Areas of identified gaps are for business owners, employers, entrepreneurs (including intrapreneurs, social entrepreneurs) and startups.

Moreover, when looking at entrepreneurship, creativity, innovation and growth, some of the current versions of units of competency are counter intuitive.  For example, entrepreneurs break rules, hustle, growth hack, pitch ideas, validate minimum viable products and find problems.

In contrast, units of competency focus on following policies and procedures, building relationships and networks (implying over the longer term), managing sales, making presentations, analysing market opportunities and solving problems.

Whilst entrepreneurs don’t often choose formal training as their preferred option for development, there is now an opportunity for the next generation of Training Packages to focus on skills that encourage the creation of jobs, international growth and entrepreneurs.


These small changes could make a big impact on Australia’s economy, unemployment, and educational outcomes.

Entrepreneurship alongside innovation, needs to be seeded and encouraged across all portfolios, especially education, employment and skills.  This requires collaboration between employment service providers, entrepreneurs, government, industry, Registered Training Organisations, Schools, startups and Universities.

November 2015

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