in collaboration with Freija Kleijnen (UAntwerp, Entrepreneurship Policy Officer, Faculty of Business and Economics and the Education Department) and Prof. Johanna Vanderstraeten (UAntwerp, associate professor, Faculty of Business and Economics)
What are entrepreneurial competences?
‘Entrepreneurial competences’ encompass a range of knowledge, attitudes and skills that stimulate entrepreneurship in students. In other words, it’s about knowledge, attitudes and skills that enable students to seize opportunities and to implement ideas, thereby creating financial, cultural or social value for others (FFE-YE, 2012).
The competences are aimed at preparing students to exhibit entrepreneurial behaviour, be it independently or in an organisation. This means that students are prepared to become small business owners, and/or to promote entrepreneurship and innovation as employees (Gibb, 2022).
Some examples of entrepreneurial competences are collaboration, creativity and innovation, planning, and self-reliance. The European Entrepreneurship Competence Framework (EntreComp) describes these entrepreneurial competences and classifies them into different domains and learning outcomes per skill level. This is a comprehensive tool that translates entrepreneurship into specific final competences.
Given that ‘sustainable thinking’ is one of the competences in this framework, these entrepreneurial competences are closely related to the sustainability competences (see this ECHO Tip from 2022), which also focus on innovation, on the ability to adapt to changing circumstances, and on working together.
Why is it important to focus on entrepreneurial competences?
Developing our students’ entrepreneurial competences is important for a variety of reasons. For one thing, more and more employers now expect such competences from their employees. By focusing on this, we’re strengthening the employability of our students (Van Damme, 2021). In addition, ‘being an entrepreneur with my own business’ is the most increasingly identified career goal that UAntwerp students wish to achieve five years after graduation (Vanderstraeten et al., 2022). This indicates a strong demand among students. In addition, entrepreneurship has a social component, as it ensures social innovation, self-development, social commitment and economic growth (Kourilsky & Walstad, 2007). And finally, it is the task of higher education to provide students with the necessary competences to solve new problems in our rapidly changing society (Laguna-Sánchez et al., 2020).
‘Higher education institutions need to prepare students for jobs that do not exist yet, for using technologies that have yet to be invented, and for solving problems that nobody has yet thought of’ (Römgens, Scoupe, & Beausaert, 2019).
How can entrepreneurial competences be strengthened?
Provide students with knowledge
In specific programme components, students can be taught the principles of business economics that are necessary to develop entrepreneurial and innovative ideas. Not only is this knowledge important in disciplines such as business and economics, but it is also a source of innovation in other domains such as engineering, the exact sciences and the arts (Turner & Gianiodis, 2019).
By sharing knowledge about the Business Model Canvas, for instance, students are familiarised with concepts and tools to further develop their own ideas and innovations. This can be done in lectures, through group discussions, or through interactive research. This builds awareness, knowledge and interest in entrepreneurial intention and feasibility.
Teach students certain attitudes and skills
There are various ways to do this. Here are three examples.
- Encourage collaboration. Collaboration is an important competence, both for future entrepreneurs and for ‘regular’ employees. In group assignments (see this ECHO Tip from 2022), focusing not only on the product to be delivered, but also on the group process helps to stimulate more conscious and more purposeful teamwork in your students (see this ECHO Tip from 2018, only in Dutch).
During the International Consulting project (Master of Business Economics, Faculty of Business and Economics), students draw up a consultancy paper in groups of five or six. This assignment focuses not only on the content, but also on the process the group goes through together. Students are asked to define objectives for their consultancy papers, to appoint a person responsible for each objective, and to draw up an action plan with a timeline to achieve it. Afterwards, students are asked to reflect on how things went, what the strengths and weaknesses of their collaboration were, and how they dealt with changes in their action plan.
In order to optimally prepare for the labour market, students of Applied Linguistics (who take an elective programme component in the third year of their bachelor at the Faculty of Arts) are put to work at internal, simulated translation agencies as part of the Skillslab. They work in teams, taking on the role of project manager or translator/proofreader. By working together on assignments taken from actual translation practice, they can develop their technological competences and translation skills. In addition, they develop the skills to be able to work and function in multidisciplinary international teams, such as drawing up quotes and invoices, communicating with clients, preparing and carrying out translation projects step by step, and working together (see this good practice, accessible only to UAntwerp staff after logging in, only in Dutch).
- Focus on problem-solving thinking. Let students come up with solutions to fictitious or real problems. By starting from a problem definition instead of an instruction, you give ownership to students while stimulating innovation and creative thinking. One method to help with this is Design Thinking, which deals with problems in five phases.
For example, students in the teacher training programme have to tackle the problem that more and more pupils end up in the so-called cascade system. In groups of three to five, the students can look for solutions using the Design Thinking approach.
- Work with entrepreneurs and organisations. By inviting guest speakers from the business world or student-entrepreneurs into your classroom, you allow your students to come into contact with entrepreneurship in an easy way. Ask the speaker not only to share knowledge and expertise, but also to talk about the journey that has led them to where they are today. What were the stumbling blocks or problems they encountered along the way, and how did they overcome them? You could also link such a guest lecture to an assignment, like an interview with another entrepreneur or a company visit. This allows students to network and to get connected.
An example of this is the AIM2Flourish platform, which visualises entrepreneurship and innovation through interview-based storytelling.
Include entrepreneurial competences in the assessment
The assessment can focus on the product and/or the process. Whatever you choose, it’s important that you assess not only the course content, but also entrepreneurial attitudes and skills. Always provide clear assessment criteria so that students know what is expected of them. Some specific examples:
- If you want to assess the ‘creativity and innovation’ competence, you can explicitly include the ‘creative input’ criterion in the assessment criteria (see this ECHO Tip from 2015, only in Dutch).
- If you want to assess the ‘planning’ competence, you can have students record the milestones of their project work in a portfolio.
- If you want to assess the ‘mobilising others’ competence, you can have students pitch a product, idea or solution (in a short sales pitch).
The Applied Logic (info in Dutch) programme component (an elective course in the 3rd year of the bachelor in Computer Science at the Faculty of Science) consists of a mock conference where students are required to present a conference paper they’ve written on a topic of their choice within the field of applied logic in computer science. The students are asked to give three presentations. In the first, they need to explain what they intend to study. The second presentation focuses on receiving peer feedback they can use to further elaborate their paper. Finally, the third presentation is the actual conference talk. In addition to their final paper, students also need to submit a portfolio including a first draft paper, an initial paper, all feedback received, and reflections on this feedback (see this good practice, accessible only to UAntwerp staff after logging in).
Want to get started?
Vlajo (Vlaamse Jonge Ondernemingen) has designed a checklist (only in Dutch) with ten easy-to-implement best practices to make a lesson entrepreneurial. You’ll notice that some of these aspects are already being applied in many lessons. However, explicitly naming them and explaining to students how these aspects can stimulate entrepreneurship has a learning effect in itself.
Want to know more?
Bea, T. J., Qian, S., Miao, C., & Fiet, J. O. (2014). The relationship between entrepreneurship education and entrepreneurial intentions: A meta–analytic review. Entrepreneurship theory and practice, 38(2), 217-254.
FFE-YE. (2012). Impact of Entrepreneurship Education in Denmark - 2011. In L. Vestergaard, K. Moberg & C. Jørgensen (Eds.). Odense: The Danish Foundation for Entrepreneurship - Young Enterprise.
Gibb, A. (2002). In pursuit of a new ‘enterprise’ and ‘entrepreneurship’ paradigm for learning: creative destruction, new values, new ways of doing things and new combinations of knowledge. International journal of management reviews, 4(3), 233-269.
Kourilsky, M. L., Walstad, W. B., & Thomas, A. (2007). The entrepreneur in youth: An untapped resource for economic growth, social entrepreneurship, and education. Edward Elgar Publishing.
Laguna-Sánchez, P., Abad, P., de la Fuente-Cabrero, C., & Calero, R. (2020). A university training programme for acquiring entrepreneurial and transversal employability skills, a students’ assessment. Sustainability, 12(3), 796.
Römgens, I., Scoupe, R., & Beausaert, S. (2020). Unraveling the concept of employability, bringing together research on employability in higher education and the workplace. Studies in Higher Education, 45(12), 2588-2603.
Van Damme, D. (2021, 11 oktober) Webinar: ‘Interdisciplinariteit in het hoger onderwijs’. Vlaams Agentschap voor Innoveren en Ondernemen. https://www.vlaio.be/nl/vlaio-netwerk/ondernemend-onderwijs/ondernemend-leren-over-disciplines-heen-waarom-wat-hoe-1
Vanderstraeten, J., Kleijnen, F., Phan, T.T. (2022). Ondernemingszin en Ondernemerschap aan de Universiteit Antwerpen. University of Antwerp.