Even though education in general is seen as one of the major catalysers of regional entrepreneurial potential, entrepreneurship education is largely undertaken in the selected programs and institutions associated with management and business development. Many Initial Teacher Education (ITE) programs in Europe, however, lack entrepreneurial competence development.
What if ITE decisionmakers open up their minds, looking a little bit more outside the box, and start to transfer what has proven to be successful in other higher educational contexts? The MCI – The Entrepreneurial School® – can serve as a prime example.

As the Entrepreneurial School ®, MCI is the first point of contact for numerous entrepreneurs and company founders for all questions concerning entrepreneurship. MCI supports students, graduates, employees, and partner organizations in their entrepreneurial activities and promotes the development of the skills required by successful entrepreneurs. Thereby it aims to provide comprehensive teaching of entrepreneurial skills.
At MCI, all study programs include a differentiated number of theoretical and practical courses in the field of entrepreneurship in their curricula, with two Master’s programs that are explicitly devoted to entrepreneurship. Curricula are supplemented with practical projects, international study trips, company excursions, symposia, workshops, and boot camps to foster entrepreneurship competence development.

Next to this, MCI offers extra-curricular education in the field of Entrepreneurship & Start-up. Within MCI’s executive education, courses and seminars are offered to sharpen the entrepreneurial spirit regularly. Moreover, with the digital badge program, the MCI starts off as a pioneer by awarding digital badges in the field of Entrepreneurship and Start-up Management. Digital badges are digital certificates for skills acquired outside the regular studies. During this program, students go through a series of interesting seminars, workshops, courses, and learning experiences within one year (e.g. identification of hidden entrepreneurs, collecting practical experience in a start-up, participation in a business plan competition, pitch training, etc.).

Furthermore, MCI regularly organizes lecture and discussion events that facilitate entrepreneurship topics and sensitize students to specific entrepreneurial issues (e.g. female entrepreneurship, etc.). Of particular relevance is the annual MCI Creativity Award, where students from all study programs (including incoming students) have the chance to demonstrate their entrepreneurial ideas. A jury of independent experts from various fields evaluates all ideas and the best ideas are awarded prizes.
Individual consulting and coaching sessions can be arranged with internal or external experts when students, employees, graduates but also partner organizations and companies need advice in entrepreneurship. Doing so, in cooperation with the major players in the Tyrolean entrepreneurship ecosystem, the MCI has successfully contributed to the establishment of numerous start-ups and spin-offs in recent years.

In the sense of a sustainable exchange of knowledge, research in the field of entrepreneurship is strongly promoted at the MCI and includes 1) Entrepreneurship Education, 2) Family Businesses Management, and 3) Innovation, Entrepreneurship and Marketing.

Although the aim of ITE is not to develop company founders – of course, entrepreneurial skills might be equally important for future teachers. While typical entrepreneurial founders develop new or enhanced products or services, prospective teachers are even challenged to develop edu-cated humans. Let’s be true, if that is not entrepreneurial, then what is?

Now the question is what can we learn from MCI’s approach and what can be transferred to the initial teacher education (ITE) context?
First, higher education institutions that offer ITE programs should recognize the importance of entrepreneurial skills for future teachers. The embracement of an entrepreneurial mindset at the school and institutional level is a first step in the right direction.
Second, instead of providing stand-alone and encapsulated courses in entrepreneurship a multi-disciplinary and cross-curricular approach should be the preferred way to foster entrepreneurial competence development. This can be done either by enriching existing courses and lectures with some entrepreneurial elements or by offering elective over-curricular courses to raise awareness about specific entrepreneurial issues.

Furthermore, ITE institutions should engage within the regional and national entrepreneurship eco-system and build up a fruitful network for a steady exchange. Institutional and in particular cross-institutional events and workshops can be very efficient here. They can be organized to sensitize students for entrepreneurship education, helping them to overcome inhibitions and prejudices about the topic. Even a business plan competition might be great to do so. The business plan competition can easily be transformed into a curriculum competition (e.g. designing the best curriculum) or a didactics competition (e.g. best lecturer) for a better fit to the ITE context.

Thinking outside the box, spin-offs might also be an interesting option for institutions in the ITE context. Spin-offs are not only limited to technological innovations, even more so they might path the way for innovative ideas and novel educational concepts! Also, research in the field of entrepreneurship education might help to expand horizons and enrich the quality of teaching and learning substantially, therefore is should not be neglected either.

Ultimately, however, it is not a matter of working through this list and implementing everything on bend and break. The aim is rather to provide food for thought and inspiration. If we want the next generation to have more entrepreneurial qualities, then educational institutions in particular should set a good example. And if they try just one thing on this list, they too have put their entrepreneurial potential to the test, leading by example.

Authored by: Desiree Wieser, MCI

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