Students with hands-on experience of working with entrepreneurs are far more likely to become entrepreneurs themselves or to play a pivotal role in developing small and medium-sized enterprises.
Researchers from Strathclyde University's Hunter Centre for Entrepreneurship have just presented these findings to a European entrepreneurship and policy workshop in Belgium. And they say placements offer learning benefits that cannot be replicated by entrepreneurs coming into institutions. For the past three years, the Hunter Centre has run a project in which groups of students spend up to seven weeks working with a local entrepreneur on a business development project.
Senior lecturer Colin Bottomley and research fellows Sarah Cooper and Jillian Gordon, who researched the project, said it was the first-hand experience that enabled students to understand entrepreneurship.
"However much the students had been told about the passion, commitment and dedication required to be a successful entrepreneur, it took the placement in business to hammer that home."
One student said that what seemed to separate the successful entrepreneur from the unsuccessful dreamer was not just an innovative product, but "diligence, strength, passion, creativity, patience, team-working and risk-taking".
Students said they now grasped the need to develop skills in team-working, planning and understanding different viewpoints.
Even if they did not opt to set up their own venture, they were more likely to seek work in a small business, which the Strathclyde researchers say should boost the sector's performance.
The entrepreneurs said the students' input gave them the chance to reflect on their business. Almost half said they gained fresh ideas.
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