The Global University Entrepreneurial Spirit Student Survey 2016 showed that only 8.8% of the 122,000 students surveyed from 50 countries wanted to become entrepreneurs and work in their own business straight after graduation.
According to a report by the Irish Examiner only 800 Irish students took part in the survey, with only 1.5% of them from UL- 12 students.
The government has set out requirements for third-level institutions, that graduates should have the skills to set up their own companies.
Five years after graduation 38.3% of graduates intend to have set up their own business.
The survey also showed that of those completing arts degrees such as design, dramatics, and music, 45.6% of them intended on immediately becoming entrepreneurs after graduation. Next were the graduates of Law, Economics and Business degrees with 44.6%, while those in engineering degrees came third with 41.6%.
The GUESS showed that there is a gender gap averaging at 3.6% more males interested in setting up their own business than females, however in Ireland there are 11.3% more male graduate entrepreneurs than females.
Of the student’s surveyed 55.4% of them have not attended a course on entrepreneurship in their university.
Ask the experts about entrepreneurship…
Dr Yvonne Costin course director of Masters in International Entrepreneurship Management expressed her view on why students might hesitate in becoming entrepreneurs after graduation, she said: “Perhaps the perception of entrepreneurship as a career choice is one that is risky for some students. The fear of failure may also play a role in the hesitation amongst students in starting their own business. Whilst some graduates may not want to start a business directly after college, it may be a long term career plan for them.”
As a previous collaborator with the GUESS survey, Dr Costin said that there could be a variety of reasons why the Irish sample size was so low, “perhaps students are not really aware of the initiative.”
As a researcher of female entrepreneurship and having contributed to academic studies on women in business, the Kemmy Business School resident said: “Female entrepreneurs are being recognised as a major contributor to all economies for the contribution they can make. They are being seen, more and more, as a source of untapped potential that can make huge contributions and thus need to be supported in a very relevant way” she also discussed how Irish women are being encouraged to participate in STEM fields from an early age, as this is an area of high growth potential for businesses.
When asked about the governmental requirements on third-level institutions, she said: “The government have recognised the importance of entrepreneurial education, and acknowledge that increased levels of entrepreneurship can be achieved through entrepreneurship education.”
The Tierney building on the UL campus houses start-up incubator: The Nexus Innovation center, a hub of activity where entrepreneurs can develop, collaborate and grow.
The Nexus center is buzzing on a daily basis at all hours with entrepreneurs and their teams working on their start-up companies.
What do the entrepreneurs think?
Emily Ross founder of PR company Inkvine communications works from her desk in the Nexus center providing world-class communication and marketing skills to her clients, while also mentoring start-ups.
Speaking about college and entrepreneurs she said: “Our academic process is very much geared towards, established businesses, or finding a career and having a good job, and it’s funny because every business has to start somewhere.”
She said the low number of students interested in entrepreneurship is: “because I think the word entrepreneur itself has connotations. I think Ireland does produce a lot of entrepreneurial spirit” however Emily said that the stigma around failure in Ireland can put people off the life of an entrepreneur, while in the U.S.A serial entrepreneurs are common, she said: “failure teaches you way more than success.”
Becoming an entrepreneur is not a set career path from taking a set course, instead Emily thinks it comes from wanting to solve a problem: “there wasn’t a set course for what problem can I solve? What innovation can I bring? I certainly think some subjects inspire creativity, but they don’t necessarily transfer to commerciality.”
Mentoring start-up companies Emily has seen that great ideas often don’t transpire to profitability because the founders don’t understand developing a business model, or their route to market, she said: “that’s actually where I think education can come in, they can teach a scientific approach to innovation and business development.
“The one thing I think about the entrepreneurial spirit is that it can be applied to any vertical, to any knowledge base. The desire to be creative and solve problems is dependent completely on your own personality type.”
As a woman running a successful company Emily accredits her definition of entrepreneur to her mother who was a hairdresser, “but no,” Emily said: “she was an entrepreneur, a business owner who provided employment to a dozen people. There are women up and down the country, who are running their own businesses and employing people and don’t call themselves entrepreneurs.”
Paul Reardon, Chief Operations Officer of BlueChief Social, said a lot of his entrepreneurial experience was learned from his father, drawing attention to another area of the GUESS survey that showed that students who came from family businesses were more likely to seek out the start-up life after graduation.
In Paul’s opinion entrepreneurship and education can mix: “if one of the modules of entrepreneurship included a week where the entire class sat down and tried to build their own businesses, validate their ideas and at the end of the lecture, pitch it to mock investors or local business leaders, that would be such a great idea, and that’s the real experience that you need because you learn from doing.”
Paul said as a young entrepreneur emerging from college he was unaware of the support present for start-ups: “I didn’t know that the Harttnet center (L.I.T) was there for new start-ups and the same here in Nexus. I didn’t know there were two incubation centers in Limerick, I’m an entrepreneur, I had already created my own company while I was in college.”
The entrepreneurial spirit in graduates is rare, Paul said: “You see that’s the social norm of today, once you leave college you immediately have to start making money or else, it has been a waste.”
Paul’s message to those who want to start up he said: “Don’t wait and don’t make excuses. Start working on it now.”
Chris Kelly, founder of Pinpoint Innovations was a UL student for one year and then decided to focus on his start-up full time, he said he wants students to understand what entrepreneurship actually is: “It’s hard and people don’t realise the amount of work involved, I probably wouldn’t have done it if I had known half the stuff I know now. I probably would have said no, however that being said if I had started now, knowing what I know now, what I learned from the journey, I probably would skip the stuff we did wrong. I don’t think people understand that you’re going to have to make so many mistakes.”
The CEO of Pinpoint Innovations said : “if you had an entrepreneur module in an engineering course I think you would have a lot of people who were annoyed, and who felt that they didn’t sign up for it.”
When asked if course such as his computer engineering course should push students towards entrepreneurship Chris said: “If you look at industry, the likes of Intel, they can never get enough engineers so the universities are probably under a lot of pressure from big MNC’s who need engineers to provide them.”
Each of these entrepreneurs stepped onto the start-up scene with no third-level education in the subject, it can be debated whether they need it, and if the reality of the job is education enough. Is entrepreneurship too big for the classroom, or are the classrooms not big enough?