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OPINION: Why We Should Be Teaching Entrepreneurship

San Diego, like many cities across the U.S., has a major student-readiness problem. Fewer than 4 in 10 California high school students complete requirements needed to be eligible to attend California’s public universities. A large majority of California high school students are simply not taking the courses needed to prepare them for college.

Some estimates project that at this current rate the region could have a shortage of one million college graduates by 2025. So what can we do to ensure our youth are ready for success and prepared to be future leaders and innovators?

Entrepreneurship education is one way to assist students in preparation for college and beyond. Entrepreneurship education allows students to build skills that are transferable to many areas of life, including conflict resolution, collaboration, resource management, financial literacy and accountability.

Through an entrepreneurship-education approach, and by matching high school students with a selected mentor who is actively engaged in the workforce, youth are given a head start to enhance their classroom learning to contribute their knowledge to projects and initiatives in the “real world.” An important outcome from this approach is that students learn from individuals who have stumbled, yet ultimately have achieved success in contributing to our region.

Embrace Entrepreneurship

San Diego must embrace entrepreneurship in youth by encouraging innovative, creative thinking and incorporating new ways of doing things. Thankfully, there are schools doing just that.

The School for Entrepreneurship and Technology (SET) strives to provide students with a broader approach to education, and one that will cultivate life-long learning and emotional intelligence in addition to entrepreneurial knowledge.

Community leaders and industry experts who recently visited the school expressed astonishment that there has never been a formal high school program to teach and foster entrepreneurship. They agreed that what SET is doing to provide students with a broader approach to education will help to increase student success and enhance their entrepreneurial knowledge. The school promotes hypothesis-driven learning, ideation and innovation.

What Businesses Can Do

Businesses hold a unique responsibility to promote entrepreneurship education as they stand to lose the most in available, quality workers. Businesses can be a part of the readiness-gap solution in myriad ways:

Mentorship Programs: Adopt policies and programs that build youth entrepreneurship and mentoring programs that will help close the readiness gap in preparation for post-secondary education and the workforce. Businesses should host interns starting in high school and continue through college, which will better prepare youth for the workforce.

Accessibility: Reach out to areas where disparities are the greatest, such as low-income or underserved areas. These students can benefit the most from quality entrepreneurship training but often don’t have the accessibility to such programs in their area.

Affordability: Advocate for San Diego talent staying in San Diego. This requires work to make San Diego a more affordable place to live, work and play through more affordable housing and wages that meet the needs of the local cost of living. These ambitious business owners are needed to mentor the next generation.

Much at Stake

Entrepreneurship is in America’s DNA, and San Diego is the perfect and proven hub for innovation. The small-business economy is the lifeblood of our region, as small businesses account for 99.7 percent of all businesses in the U.S. San Diego County must continue to foster startups and small businesses that will continue to create jobs and stimulate the economy.

Inspiring students to disrupt the traditional idea of success and consider an entrepreneurship education will produce a new generation of socially responsible trailblazers who will shape the way we work and live. This is imperative to fuel the future of the Southern California economy.

Tom Cesarini is the chief business officer of The School of Entrepreneurship and Technology (SET High) in San Diego.

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