Fostering entrepreneurship competence in Europe

Fondazione Brodolini completed a new research study on behalf of the European centre for the development of vocational training (Cedefop), Embedding entrepreneurship competence in vocational education and training (Vet).

The results of eight national case studies (Austria, Croatia, Finland, France, Italy, Latvia, Spain and Sweden) on vocational education and training have been presented during the online conference held on 28 September 2023, which also marked the conclusion of the research. 

Carried out between May 2021 and September 2023, this comprehensive study delves into effective methods and strategies for embedding entrepreneurship within Vet, an essential skill in the current job market, thus providing fruitful insights for policy-makers, social partners, Vet providers and researchers.

Besides a deep dive into literature and policy reviews, it also comprises a field research with 48 Vet training providers. 

In particular, the study revolves around two key questions: in which way do ecosystems for entrepreneurial learning support the embedding of entrepreneurship competence in European Vet; what policies, methods, tools and approaches are most effective for this purpose.

The study highlighted the importance of clear definitions, consistent policies and systematic approaches in order to embed entrepreneurship within Vet curricula. Furthermore, it calls for a more inclusive and digital entrepreneurship education, emphasising the need for policy coherence and effective national strategies.

Most countries align with the European Commission's broad definition of entrepreneurship competence as "the ability to transform ideas into values". However, interpretations vary, with some countries adopting a context-neutral stance and others incorporating elements of personal development, business creation, or employability.

As for the challenges in Vet, these arise wherever teachers express mixed feelings about entrepreneurship, considering it either a vital or secondary skill, compared to basic competencies like literacy and numeracy.

Additionally, the ideological connotations of the term "entrepreneurship" often make educators hesitant to prioritise it.

Central to the model explored in the study is the Vet provider, acting as a hub for nurturing entrepreneurial attitudes. This ecosystem involves interactions among various stakeholders – both internal and external – under the existing policy framework.

EU initiatives have long encouraged entrepreneurial education. Key milestones include the 2006 recognition of entrepreneurship as a key competence and the 2016 introduction of the European entrepreneurship competence framework (EntreComp).

These policies have been shaping national approaches; however, their translation into practice often presents challenges due to a misalignment between European, national, and regional policies.

The active involvement of multiple stakeholders, from businesses to NGOs, is important in fostering entrepreneurship competence. While collaboration with businesses is common, the focus traditionally remains on technical competences.

Nevertheless, in countries like Spain and Finland, some Vet providers have set up in-house incubation units, assisting learners in developing their business ideas.

Among the challenges, there is the lack of confidence and skills among Vet teachers in implementing entrepreneurship education. Professional development opportunities vary across countries, and there is still a general lack of formal recognition for teachers dedicated to entrepreneurship.

Methodological shifts towards more participatory, learner-centred approaches are underway, albeit at different speeds. Project-based learning and the contribution of work placements and apprenticeships are highlighted as effective methods. However, challenges in aligning extracurricular activities with curricula do persist.

Transitioning to competence-based assessments, including entrepreneurship skills, is a common trend. Vet students involved in entrepreneurship activities report developing a wide range of competences, from teamwork to conflict management, which also positively impact their self-esteem, motivation, and academic performance

Digital transformation in education underwent an acceleration due to the pandemic, thus affecting the development of entrepreneurship competence. Teachers adapted to online teaching, but practical aspects of Vet faced challenges, and interaction with external partners was limited.

Read the synthesis report

Watch the video with the highlights of the online conference