High school students have always been informal entrepreneurs, but they’ve moved on from mowing lawns and babysitting to creating products and services that can compete in the open market.
The economy has also changed. No longer does a college education guarantee a secure, well-paying job, so students need to be equipped with the skills to be self-sufficient in this new marketplace — no matter what their post-graduation plans may be.
It’s time for high schools to catch up to the needs of their students and make entrepreneurship part of the curriculum. Here’s why:
1. The evolving economy demands an entrepreneurial spirit.
Millennials go through more career changes than ever before and often work in settings demanding more skills for less pay. This new standard has stirred many people to find creative ways to use their skills to generate extra income. The popularity of online communities like Etsy and Fiverr shows the demand to earn income independently. This trend can only be expected to increase, and students should be learning skills for the future.
2. Education alone is not enough.
Education credentials are still important, but they’re no longer a “ticket” to a great job after graduation. The traditional route that people used to get ahead in the past no longer guarantees success. Entrepreneurship, on the other hand, has always offered a path for those who are willing to work hard to rise as far as their skills, perseverance, and creativity will take them.
3. Lifelong value is essential.
Fewer people will have traditional retirement benefits, so students will be better served by a career that can change and adjust over time. Once a student runs a business, he or she can change it, sell it, create a chain, or open another business. The opportunities are broad and aren’t limited by age.
How to Prepare Students for Entrepreneurship.
Starting and running a business requires a basic understanding of a broad range of topics. Here’s what we should teach high school students:
Computer Skills: Learning basic programs, including the Windows and Adobe suites, will serve budding entrepreneurs well. Students can create business plans in Microsoft Word, put together pitch decks in PowerPoint, create basic accounting templates in Excel, design logos in Photoshop, format an e-book in InDesign, and set up a basic website with WordPress. Knowing how to use these programs makes starting a business easier and cheaper.
Programming Skills: These are increasingly useful across the board, and skilled programmers are in high demand in large businesses and startups.
Art and Design: Every growing business eventually needs a graphic designer for everything from logos and marketing materials to product design. This skill is highly transferrable and can lead to job opportunities across many industries.
Personal Finance: Anyone who can manage his personal finances is one step ahead of his peers. The ability to adjust to fluctuating income and maintain creditworthiness is a necessary skill for entrepreneurs.
Accounting: Handling a company’s money takes additional bookkeeping skills. Many entrepreneurs are thrilled when they start making money but don’t have systems in place to keep track of where the money is going and what future expenses and revenue might look like.
Marketing: Like design, marketing is a skill that applies to all businesses. Businesses have to sell products and services to stay open. It’s one thing for a student to have a great idea; it’s another to successfully share it with an audience.
Branding: Branding, including the use of effective social media, is becoming more critical for companies and individuals. It’s easy for a great idea to get lost in a confusing message, but the better a startup can brand itself, the more likely it is to attract customers, investors, and media attention.
Business Writing: Entrepreneurs have to unlearn just about everything they were taught in high school English classes. They’ll need to skillfully compose emails, proposals, and presentations instead of research papers and essays. Students will have an easier time adjusting to business writing if they are exposed to the style earlier.
There are some good entrepreneurial programs available, but these skills need to reach more kids who will need them in the future. Even if students never decide to open their own businesses, these skills will give them a huge leg up in college or in their first job. Teenagers today will face a very different professional landscape than preceding generations, and it’s our job to prepare them for it.
Wheeler del Torro is an entrepreneurial consultant and speaker. He has also made a name for himself as a professional chef, starting his career by hosting pop-ups and dinner parties, which led him to invest in small companies. He currently spends most of his time traveling across the globe to host pop-up restaurants and workshops on how to start a business. He wants to educate entrepreneurs on all aspects of starting a business, from conceiving an idea to gaining funding.