Academic journal article Journal of Business and Entrepreneurship

The Entrepreneurship Education Subecosystem in the United States: Opportunities to Increase Entrepreneurial Activity

Academic journal article Journal of Business and Entrepreneurship

The Entrepreneurship Education Subecosystem in the United States: Opportunities to Increase Entrepreneurial Activity

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

"Entrepreneurship ecosystem" is a popular buzz phrase among academicians, politicians, and practitioners. An ecosystem is the interaction of people, roles, infrastructure, organizations, and events that create an environment for heightened levels of entrepreneurial activity, Entrepreneurship education is a critical part of the system that warrants deeper examination. This paper explores entrepreneurship education as a nested sub-ecosystem within the broader entrepreneurship ecosystem by considering the context of the United States, By delving into a specific subsystem, we highlight the complexity often missed in higher level conversations on entrepreneurship ecosystems.

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

In the United States, there is an increasing focus on entrepreneurship by politicians, academics, and practitioners looking to reinvigorate the United States' international competitiveness, to create jobs, and to generate economic growth. This focus is characterized by a celebration of entrepreneurship and reductions in barriers to entrepreneurial activity. Such measures are good things, but we argue that they are short term solutions to an increasingly complex problem. The root of this problem is a lack of entrepreneurship education at all levels. Entrepreneurship education deserves more attention due to its critical role in developing entrepreneurial attitudes, aspirations, and activity. We consider entrepreneurship education as a nested sub-ecosystem within the broader entrepreneurship ecosystem. This approach allows us to consider the different groups that entrepreneurship education must reach, and the differing role entrepreneurship education plays for each group. Specifically, we discuss entrepreneurship education across three distinct levels - K- 12, higher education, and vocational training - and consider how the four programmatic questions outlined by the World Economic Forum are currently being answered for each of the levels in the case of the United States (US). These questions are: 1) What is being taught? 2) Who is being taught and who is doing the teaching? 3) Where are students being taught? and 4) How are students being taught? (Volkmann, et al. 2008). Our analysis demonstrates that the current hodgepodge of programs in the US fails to answer these questions in a coherent manner, and thus fails to meet the needs of entrepreneurs at all levels. If the US wishes to leverage entrepreneurship as a source of competitiveness and as an engine of economic growth, it must develop such coherence by building a network of education programs that fit together in a coordinated way.

INTRODUCTION

It is widely held that the forces of technology and globalization have fundamentally changed business in the 21st century. China's manufacturing might and India's IT and engineering prowess (Friedman, 2005) have created fear in the United States that the country is doomed to economic and political decline if it cannot somehow respond. Such fears have been stoked by the recent economic crisis with high levels of unemployment, soaring national debt, and foreign policy issues that have put added strain on the US economy.

In searching for an answer to these growing threats, the US has turned to its historical strengths in innovation, ingenuity, and capitalism. Some believe that the US can maintain its economic lead if it can outpace other countries in developing and commercializing new ideas and technologies (Schramm, 2006). The country is searching for innovative entrepreneurs to achieve this goal - entrepreneurs that are distinct from those who replicate existing business models in that their businesses drive not just economic activity, but economic growth (Summit Consulting, 2009). These innovators found companies that rapidly grow in size, revenue, and in the number of people they employ. The disproportionate impact they have is dramatic - 15% of the highest growth firms account for 94% of the jobs created (Reynolds, et al. …

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