This American Graduate Day, Let’s Help Activate the Entrepreneurial Mindset in Young People

As awareness of the need to teach the entrepreneurial mindset builds around the world, we can join forces to activate the entrepreneurial mindset of the next generation.

NFTE is a proud partner in PBS’s American Graduate Day, joining 15 other organizations in supporting community-based initiatives to help youth succeed in high school and beyond.

At NFTE, we are constantly asking and evaluating:
What can we teach youth that will best serve them over a lifetime?

We believe that every student should have the opportunity to develop the entrepreneurial mindset, the skills that will allow them to approach the world with an innovator’s eye and a founder’s grit.

In an innovation economy where many of tomorrow’s jobs are barely imagined today, young people must be confident in creating opportunities for themselves and others—whether they go on to become entrepreneurs or entrepreneurial contributors to existing organizations.

Education both in the United States and globally is headed in this direction. The federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), passed in Dec 2015, calls for all students to receive a well-rounded education, including career-ready skills, while eliminating unnecessary testing. 42 states have reported K–12 standards, guidelines, or proficiencies in entrepreneurial education—a dramatic rise from only 19 states in 2009.

The EU just last year introduced the EntreComp framework, building off of the organization’s idea that entrepreneurship is a key competency and one that is necessary for a knowledge-based society. The report aims to “raise consensus among all stakeholders and to establish a bridge between the worlds of education and work” and to “become a reference de facto for any initiative aiming to foster entrepreneurial capacity of European citizens.”

Meanwhile, the OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) recently changed one of their cornerstone student achievement domains from “problem solving” to “collaborative problem solving,” demonstrating the need to teach not only the analytical, “critical thinking” aspects of problem solving, but also the noncognitive skill that is communication, which in the real world is such an integral component of solving any complex problem. “Communication & Collaboration” is one of the eight key pillars that NFTE uses to define an entrepreneurial mindset.

So how can we activate the entrepreneurial mindset of an entire generation?

1. Be a role model who demonstrates the mindset and coaches young people on developing these skills in a positive way. You may join thousands of NFTE volunteers and mentors across the nation, helping students to imagine and create new possibilities for themselves.

2. Teach and measure the mindset. To best teach skills such as innovation, comfort with risk, and flexibility, students and their educators should be able to measure progress—not with the intent of giving a grade, but rather with the intent of knowing where to dedicate additional attention and practice. NFTE worked with researchers from ETS to create the Entrepreneurial Mindset Index (EMI), an innovative tool to measure entrepreneurial skills and behavior in youth participating in our programs. The EMI was developed with signature support from EY has been rolled out in all NFTE program schools across the US.

3. Talk about the mindset. As we socialize the need to teach these skills and the methods available for teaching them successfully, we’ll build stronger and stronger solutions together. Be particularly vocal with local city leadership, who play a key role in creating environments where youth can learn entrepreneurial skills.

4. Continue learning how you can help. Initiatives like PBS’s American Graduate Day are a great opportunity to learn about organizations and individuals who share your interest in helping youth. Tune in for the broadcast on PBS October 14, 2–6pm ET (check local listings), and participate via the #AmGrad hashtag. We would also welcome you at our final student business plan competition of the year, the National Youth Entrepreneurship Challenge, on Oct 12 in NYC.

Together we can activate the entrepreneurial mindset in young people and help them to drive their best futures.