An old yet new ap­proach to en­trepreneur­ship ed­u­ca­tion

Ottawa Business Journal - Techopia - - Tech-Flix -

Post-sec­ondary in­sti­tu­tions across On­tario are em­brac­ing en­trepreneur­ship ed­u­ca­tion at an un­prece­dented rate, ac­cord­ing to a re­cent re­port by the Higher Ed­u­ca­tion Qual­ity Coun­cil of On­tario. Be­yond the no­tion of start­ing new busi­nesses, en­trepreneur­ship ed­u­ca­tion ben­e­fits stu­dents in many di­verse ways, in­clud­ing the de­vel­op­ment of crit­i­cal skills such as prob­lem-solv­ing, crit­i­cal think­ing and cre­ativ­ity. These are skills that are in­creas­ingly in de­mand by both public and pri­vate sec­tors. The Univer­sity of Ottawa En­trepreneur­ship Hub is adopt­ing its own unique ap­proach to en­trepreneur­ship ed­u­ca­tion through a learn­ing-by-do­ing model that has a long and suc­cess­ful his­tory in the trades: apprenticeships.

The ap­pren­tice­ship model of en­trepreneur­ship ed­u­ca­tion is de­scribed in more de­tail in the fol­low­ing in­ter­view be­tween Luc La­lande, the ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Univer­sity of Ottawa EHub, and stu­dents Jo­ce­lyn Cour­neya, Miriam Saslove and Melina Kokki­nos from the Fac­ulty of Arts. All of these stu­dents are ex­pe­ri­enc­ing apprenticeships as part of a stu­dent-led ven­ture named the “Dig­i­tal Sto­ry­tellers Guild” (DST Guild).


Apprenticeships have a long his­tory of suc­cess in oc­cu­pa­tions — of­ten re­ferred to as the trades — char­ac­ter­ized by tech­ni­cal pro­fi­ciency of tools. Why did you be­lieve it had po­ten­tial ap­pli­ca­tion to en­trepreneur­ship ed­u­ca­tion?


When I first joined the Univer­sity of Ottawa in June 2014, I spent con­sid­er­able time talk­ing to stu­dents about the mean­ing of en­trepreneur­ship. It be­came clear to me then that many young peo­ple on cam­pus iden­ti­fied en­trepreneur­ship as some­thing that pri­mar­ily in­ter­ested busi­ness stu­dents. Fol­low­ing this train of thought, en­trepreneur­ship ed­u­ca­tion was syn­ony­mous with taking a busi­ness course if not an out­right busi­ness de­gree. My chal­lenge, there­fore, was to find a way to en­gage stu­dents in a way that fos­tered an en­tre­pre­neur­ial mindset and be­hav­iours with­out stu­dents hav­ing to, first, feel they needed to take a busi­ness course or de­gree and, sec­ond, start a busi­ness. In or­der to reach more stu­dents be­yond the busi­ness school, I needed to change the “lan­guage” that is typ­i­cally adopted in de­scrib­ing en­trepreneur­ship ed­u­ca­tion. The fa­mous quote from man­age­ment guru Peter Drucker sums it up best: “En­trepreneur­ship is nei­ther a sci­ence nor an art. It is a prac­tice.”

An­other deep in­flu­ence in adopt­ing the ap­pren­tice­ship model of “learn­ing-by-do­ing” was my in­volve­ment with the global maker move­ment and more specif­i­cally maker ed­u­ca­tion. I was in­trigued by the con­struc­tivist learn­ing par­a­digm pi­o­neered by Sey­mour Papert, one of found­ing fac­ulty mem­bers of the MIT Me­dia Lab. The core tenet of his con­struc­tion­ist the­ory of learn­ing is that peo­ple build knowl­edge most ef­fec­tively when they are ac­tively en­gaged in con­struct­ing things in the world. I imag­ined that Papert’s model could be ap­plied to en­trepreneur­ship ed­u­ca­tion by way of apprenticeships. Prac­tice-based en­trepreneur­ship, I thought, would be the next best thing to ac­tu­ally start­ing up your own ven­ture. I’ve got a ques­tion for you. As un­der­grad­u­ate stu­dents in the public re­la­tions and com­mu­ni­ca­tions pro­gram in the Fac­ulty of Arts, you are among my first “sub­jects” ex­per­i­ment­ing with this ap­pren­tice­ship model of en­trepreneur­ship ed­u­ca­tion. What has been your ex­pe­ri­ence so far?


Out­side of stu­dent as­so­ci­a­tions, in­tern­ships, and vol­un­teer­ing, it is very hard to find “hands-on” ex­pe­ri­ence in com­mu­ni­ca­tions as a univer­sity stu­dent. Be­com­ing a part of dig­i­tal sto­ry­tellers al­lows for guid­ance and men­tor­ship within the fields that in­ter­est you, while at the same time giv­ing you the abil­ity to man­age your own projects and be cre­ative. This pro­gram al­lows you to take risks, build your port­fo­lio and take re­spon­si­bil­ity un­like other stu­dent learn­ing ex­pe­ri­ences. And here is a ques­tion for you, Luc. With so much em­pha­sis on cam­pus-based in­cu­ba­tors and ac­cel­er­a­tors, do you think the idea of “apprenticeships in en­trepreneur­ship” will catch on?


I do. Es­pe­cially for those full­time stu­dents who are sim­ply not ready to launch their own ven­tures but none­the­less wish to learn to think and be­have more en­trepreneuri­ally. Apprenticeships while in school are a ter­rific way for stu­dents to gain valu­able skills and ex­pe­ri­ence be­fore they grad­u­ate. And get­ting paid for it at the same time!



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