History of the initiative
The initiative was at first launched in school year 2019-20 and one full cycle of workshops was organised. The idea for Entrepreneurship Academy emerged from previous initiatives co-ordinated by Mr Dawid Szczepankiewicz and Jasło Business Association and co-financed by the National Bank of Poland. These include the Youngsters and Entrepreneurship initiative (Młodzież i Przedsiębiorczość), which was first established in 2017 as a response to the exodus of young people from the area of Jasło to bigger cities in Poland or abroad. Local entrepreneurs realised there was a drain of young people who could potentially work at local businesses or factories, but they preferred to leave the city instead. Although the entrepreneurs were aware of the process, they had no idea how to stop it and they were not able to establish effective collaboration with local schools who had different visions concerning future of the young people.
For that reason, and as a response to those needs presented, Jasło Business Association launched the Youngsters and Entrepreneurship initiative for primary school students, with special engagement of Dawid, and financial help from the National Bank of Poland (as part of their Economic Education programme) and the City of Jasło. The initiative comprised entrepreneurship-related workshops (elements of public relations and economics, legal aspects of managing companies, entrepreneurship education), visits at local companies and factories, visits to the National Bank of Poland, to the Kopernik Science Centre in Warsaw and to Polish parliament (Sejm RP). What is more, a competition concerning interesting business ideas was organised and students were involved in Oxford debates during which they discussed current situation of young people in the local business market. When the youngsters were graduating from local primary schools they were asking for the continuation of the initiative and that gave rise to Entrepreneurship Academy which targets secondary school students.
Organisers of the Entrepreneurship Academy were also organisers of previous entrepreneurship-oriented initiatives whose participants wanted to further develop entrepreneurship-related skills. Previous initiatives were aimed at primary school students; when those students graduated and started secondary school, they would ask about similar initiatives and they willingly enrolled to Entrepreneurship Academy. Furthermore, the school that organisers of the initiative co-operated with made other students aware of the possibility of enrolment.
Entrepreneurship Academy actively seeks out synergies with local administration and local companies to discuss aspects that need to be elaborated on during workshops, they identify current gaps in the job market and opportunities for development in general. Local entrepreneurs, teachers, local administration and the local community in general are stakeholders in the initiative, as they strongly benefit from the economic development of young inhabitants. Even at the level of secondary school, many students tend to move to bigger cities, even though Jasło offers nice opportunities for secondary education and therefore it is extremely important to encourage students to stay there.
Entrepreneurship Academy operates in a local environment that is favourable for the implementation of activities fostering entrepreneurship-related development of young people. Local entrepreneurs, schools and local authorities see a need for educating students in order to meet the challenges of the contemporary job market, especially in the area (district) of Jasło in order to show young people that it is possible to stay there for life and still find a business niche to fill.
Aims and objectives
The goals of the Entrepreneurship Academy are connected with development of entrepreneurship-related skills and competencies among secondary school students. Students are given chance to develop entrepreneurship-related skills and to learn how to set up one’s own business. Activities involve group and individual work in person.
Activities and learning outcomes
Participants are given opportunity to talk to various businesspeople and they can design individual development pathway. They talk to the consultants about business ideas, career development, etc. There were also workshops offered in order to show participants how business works, how to be entrepreneurial and what possibilities of development they had in their local area. Methods of learning include discussions, brainstorming, workshops, case studies, individual meetings and consultancy. These are delivered through the following activities:
• Workshops in the area of entrepreneurship (on the personal and professional level), public relations, economics and finances and legal aspects of business that helped students understand basic economy-related mechanisms.
• Visits at local companies in order to understand how work is organised at given sectors, what the needs of local businesses are and which areas of expertise are being looked for. This, in turn, gave them the chance to choose their future profession in accordance with the needs of the local job market and this way strengthen their chances of getting a good job after graduating from school or, later, from university.
• Visits at National Bank of Poland where students learn about the history of money and Polish monetary system, the functioning of the Central Bank and they were instructed on how to check the authenticity of banknotes in general circulation.
• Meetings with local entrepreneurs once a month, where students have an opportunity to meet a local entrepreneur who told them about the specificity of his/her work, the specificity of a given business sector and challenges and opportunities associated with it. Students could ask questions and they had the opportunity to learn more about local businesses and find niches which they could fill in the future, after graduation. They also could get feedback concerning their business ideas and their future professional development plans.
• Visits at universities in Rzeszów, which is the closest university city and the most popular target of inhabitants of Jasło and its area who want to study at university: students visited two universities located in Rzeszów (University of Rzeszów and Technical University of Rzeszów) to see the potential of local higher education institutions, to visit their career offices and to learn about current educational offers of those universities.
• Open Space Debate, an open debate of students, teachers, school management, local government and entrepreneurs concerning the local business and labour market from the perspective of the youth. Students participating in the project will moderate the debate. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic the debate could not be organised, but it will be organised after the pandemic.
Breaking barriers for impact
The barriers that initially made the collaboration difficult were the lack of understanding and communication between teachers and entrepreneurs as they blamed each other for the brain drain in the city. As well as the lack of ideas of what to do to get young people stay to in their hometown and boost its economy.
Initially some teachers showed resistance to make it possible for business trainers to use their lesson time to carry out workshops and organise meetings with entrepreneurs. The problem was solved in such a way that some workshops were offered as part of certain school subjects and others during students’ free time (e.g. Saturdays).
Other barriers included too many extra-curricular activities available for students and, as a result, students and their parents were at a loss which activity is really valuable and competence-building. At times of widespread digitalisation and mobility of information and data, contemporary students who do not know any other reality, think that all opportunities surrounding them will be available forever. This meant extra effort of the Entrepreneurship Academy organisers to recruit students at the initial stage. The initiative was also co-financed by the National Bank of Poland when it started, but now Entrepreneurship Academy is currently not receiving any funding as it was financed only for one year (2019-20). The initiative is suspended for now (also because of the pandemic), but there are plans to launch it once again.
These barriers were overcome by the determination of the initiator of the project and by consensus reached by school and business environments. The engagement of the organisers (Jasło Business Association) and especially Dawid, who came up with the idea of the project, found schools and teachers open for such co-operation and the quality of workshops made students motivated and interested. The openness of some school authorities and local entrepreneurs who integrated their knowledge and efforts made it possible to create the idea of Entrepreneurship Academy. Furthermore, the joint vision of local entrepreneurs, organisers and school authorities that was a result of long talks and great efforts of the initiators and trainers (Mr Dawid Szczepankiewicz and Ms Magdalena Walczyk-Szczepankiewicz) and Jasło Business Association enabled the launch and development of the activities of Entrepreneurship Academy.
Other supporting factors include the commitment of the National Bank of Poland, and the motivation of participating students. The National Bank of Poland, due to its recognisability, encouraged students to enrol and businesspeople to actively contribute. The professional attitudes and engagement of organisers to offer interesting content of workshops and the general vision of the initiative and great efforts and creativity of trainers to offer interesting workshops for students.
In terms of impact, Entrepreneurship Academy supported local community of people living in Jasło city or in neighbouring towns by offering development opportunities of young people who may find future employment in the area of their residence and this way do not need to move and build their life from scratch somewhere else, in a bigger city in Poland or abroad. At the same time, it helped the local business environment as it developed young people in areas that local entrepreneurs find crucial and necessary for their businesses to flourish. The activities of the Academy brought entrepreneurs, schoolteachers and authorities, local administration and citizens closer together and helped them set common goals aimed at improving their daily life quality.
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Image credit: Entrepreneurship Academy