University View: Cardiff Met takes the lead in nurturing entrepreneurial students
The traditional journey through higher education has changed forever. Gone are the days of the simple route from fresher to graduate to cast-iron job. As the world's economy has shifted to encompass a more global perspective, so have the demands of employers and the workplace alike.
Just a few weeks into this new academic year, many graduate employers have been reporting increases in graduate applications of over 140 per cent - competition will do nothing but rise as the year goes on.
With this as the backdrop to their future, students need to consider new directions and new paths, often with little or no experience. I talk, of course, about possible self-employment and universities are having to work hard at developing and delivering programmes which equip students with the skills they need for this particular outcome.
Graduate start-ups are nothing new of course, but with so many barriers to traditional employment, this route not only provides students with an exciting career option but in the current economic climate provides obvious advantages in terms of economic development.
As well as start-up "training", the whole area of Enterprise Education is becoming ever more recognised within universities for its ability to act as a catalyst for nurturing students’ entrepreneurial mindsets. This takes place not only at undergraduate level, but increasingly as part of an extensive offering of extra curricular enterprise and entrepreneurial activities which aim to enhance the student experience and further equip students with key skills.
The economic development role of enterprise in all levels of education has been a particular focus of the Welsh Government for well over a decade. Indeed the longevity of this support in a turbulent and competitive policy arena has seen Wales held up as an exemplar in this area across Europe.
The current flagship programme is the Youth Entrepreneurship Strategy (YES) 2010-15, which draws on various elements of the Welsh Government's economic development and educational policies. It builds on the achievements of the previous 2004 YES and aims at equipping young people in Wales, aged 5 to 25, with key entrepreneurial skills, so that they can fully achieve their potential and contribute fully to society.
Of significance is the degree to which YES has highlighted the importance of collaboration between institutions and this has led to the development of six Regional Youth Entrepreneurship Educational Hubs, the majority of which are led by Further Education Institutions across Wales. The hubs will work on developing extra curricular enterprise and entrepreneurship education, contribute to achieving the aims of YES and have been fully funded until 2015.
Cardiff Metropolitan University is proud to be leading the South East Wales Regional Youth Entrepreneurship Hub. Our partners are the University of Glamorgan, Cardiff University, University of Wales, Newport and the Open University. Of course each institution brings a wealth of good practice to the Hub, which can now be pulled together and built on collaboratively to ensure that students from all the institutions benefit and are equipped to embark on their entrepreneurial journey.
In practical terms the Hub will deliver a variety of experiences which will develop confident young entrepreneurs with the skill sets and ambitions needed to realise their career potential. The Hub will also provide students with the valuable opportunity to work with students from partner institutions.
Students will be exposed to fresh thinking such as the Skilled for Life programme, an intensive three day programme developed at Cardiff Metropolitan University, aimed at students who have completed activities delivered by the Hub and at those who show a keen interest in entrepreneurship. Its focus is on developing students’ entrepreneurial mindsets so that they can progress with their careers, either through business start-ups or ‘intrapreneurship’ within companies.
Another example is the Innovation Challenge, which has been developed and bought to the Hub by Cardiff University. The challenge is a team based event that will develop skills such as creative thinking, team work and knowledge of new media and aims to get far more students interested in entrepreneurship.
All the Hub activities will be heavily supported by expertise from local businesses. This will ensure that the practical experiences which are being developed and delivered by the Hub are equipping students for the current business environment and reflect the skills which students require on the ever changing journey they are on.
Investment in enterprise education is a long-term and necessary element of developing a vibrant and modern economy. As a vehicle for knowledge transfer and effective high level skills development, the Hub model is set to transform the experiences of thousands of students over the next few years.
For more information on the South East Wales Regional Youth Entrepreneurship Hub please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
- Natasha Kemp is Entrepreneurship Manager at Cardiff Metropolitan University