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Is Non-Traditional Entrepreneurship Training Helpful to Nascent Entrepreneurs? Yes and No

By Wu, Sibin; Jung, Joo Y. | Journal of Entrepreneurship Education, January 1, 2008 | Go to article overview

Is Non-Traditional Entrepreneurship Training Helpful to Nascent Entrepreneurs? Yes and No


Wu, Sibin, Jung, Joo Y., Journal of Entrepreneurship Education


ABSTRACT

Scholars and practitioner s have argued whether or not entrepreneurship can be taught. One camp insists entrepreneurship is teachable while the other remains skeptical. While we take the side with the camp that insists entrepreneurship is teachable, we question whether the non-traditional programs are serving their purpose. In this study, the effectiveness of the non-traditional entrepreneurship training programs is evaluated based on a database which surveyed randomly selected nascent entrepreneurs across the nation (n=830). The results suggest that these programs provide valuable information and guidance for nascent entrepreneurs. However, the results also indicate that sponsoring agencies need to focus more towards promoting these programs.

INTRODUCTION

Entrepreneurs are important to the economy of a country and the world (McDaniel & Sharpe, 2002). A significant portion of all new jobs in the 1970's and 1980's were created by new organizations (Timmons, 1992). Among numerous factors that lead to new organizational creation, an entrepreneurship education and training program is crucial. Training is critical for preparing people to start their own businesses (McGinty, 1998). Training entrepreneurs who may develop successful and innovative businesses can even lead to better economic transition (Wan, 1988).

Two main educational forces in entrepreneurship training programs exist to serve different audiences. Traditional programs serve the college students in typical business school settings. Nontraditional programs accommodate those individuals starting their new businesses as they seek assistance in more focused and practical ways. Traditional programs were subject to studies and analysis resulting in abundant scholarly publications (Bechard & Gregoire, 2005; Soloman & Fernald, 1991). However, the non-traditional programs deserve close attention. Despite the millions of dollars of investments made by various government agencies, universities and other business associations, evaluation studies of non-traditional program effectiveness have been scarce thus far. In addition, evaluations of many training programs have generated a vast number of debates, where 'teachability' of entrepreneurship has stood out. One group argues that entrepreneurship is more of a personality trait hence it is not teachable (Ede, Calcich & Panigrahi, 1998), while the other group proposes that training programs change potential entrepreneurs' mindsets, which in turn encourage them to undertake the entrepreneurial endeavor (Curran & Stan worth, 1989).

In this article, we attempt to evaluate the effectiveness of non-traditional programs and also add new insights towards the entrepreneurship teachability debate. We aim to make contributions in the following areas. First, we provide a better picture of how the public money has been used by non-traditional training programs. Second, we suggest how to improve these programs. Third, we help to reconcile the two streams of research on whether entrepreneurship is teachable.

NON-TRADITIONAL TRAINING PROGRAMS

Various levels of government, universities, and business associations offer non-credit workshops, seminars and classes to audiences who are interested in starting their own businesses (Soloman & Fernald, 1991). At the government level, the Small Business Administration (SBA) offers seminars through its main agencies, such as the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) and the Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE). These agencies provide workshops detailing fundamental business concepts such as how to obtain loans, deal with legal issues, and develop business plans. For example, SCORE Chapter 28 in the Milwaukee metropolitan area organizes monthly business workshops on business planning, marketing, and financing.

Universities also grasp their shares in non-traditional settings. For instance, the University of Wisconsin at Madison sponsors a training program called "Agricultural Entrepreneur Training.

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