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Encouraging entrepreneurial ambitions from an early age in schools

Virginie Losson (left) - ©Boost Your Talent

“Boost Your Talent”, operation financed by Europeand the Brussels-Capital Region, gives the young generation in the Canal Area an optimal training and a belief in their own entrepreneurial abilities.


2013-12-12 – There’s purple everywhere! No wonder, since we are in Anderlecht, and more specifically at the stadium of the prestigious local football club. It’s the morning, and there’s no match to watch. Even so, this is the moment for expressing personal talents. The attendees are young people, students, not particularly sporty, but interested in running their own business. Which is ideal, because the day organised by “Boost Your Talent” is dedicated to the entrepreneurial spirit.

Pupils at the centre of discussion

Several partners have come together for this operation financed by Europe (the European Regional Development Fund – ERDF) and the Brussels-Capital Region: Group One, Step2you (Ichec), Les Jeunes Entreprises and Unizo. Overall coordination is provided by the BEA (Brussels Enterprise Agency), recently renamed “”. Each partner has its own know-how, instructors and expertise, and everything has been harmoniously combined. In addition, they have together created a whole new initiative called “Entrepeneur for a day”, to supplement the scheme. The idea is to give the young generation in the Canal Area optimal training and a belief in their own entrepreneurial abilities.

Self-Employment Day is being held in the Congress Centre of the Constant Vanden Stock Stadium. It’s a place where you can really feel the spirit of self-fulfilment. Several workshops are organised there, right next to the stands. They deal with subjects such as financial planning for starting up a business, how to promoting a business’s activities, the personal skills needed for running your own business and so on. The training is interactive, with the pupils kept right at the centre of discussion. The pupils are a-buzz with activity, despite having already had a busy morning. During the break, there is a chance to admire the illuminated pitch, whose light green turf symbolises success.

"We offer schools a path that goes from primary all the way to higher education," saysVirginie Losson, project coordinator at “”."The approach has a certain consistency to it, thanks to various “Boost Your Talent” products which link together very effectively. The idea is for pupils to discover entrepreneurship and to give them the desire to run their own business, based on accurate knowledge. This was previously missing in schools in the Canal Area."

For all ages

Some courses are run in schools, while others take place at events like the one at the Anderlechtstadium. The trainers have teaching tools for each project, and it’s then up to the teachers to make the best use of them. "With this entrepreneurial approach," continues Virginie Losson,"the pupils develop useful skills for later life, which every child can make use of in multiple situations in life, not just if they decide to set up their own business."

At Anderlecht, the pupils are already in their later years of school. Discussion focuses on subjects such as estimating the cost of setting up a company, or what type of promotion to choose to reach the target audience. But certain good habits can be acquired from as early as primary school age. "At that stage it’s more about making them aware of their socio-economic environment," adds Virginie Losson. "For example, by using businesses that they have noticed near their school as the starting point. This enables us to talk about businesses which are visible, and also to bring up public activities, paid for by the community."

Taking the child’s creativity as the starting point

There is something for all ages. Primary schools have a choice of several different projects: “Cap’Ten” (Step2you), “Notre commune” (“Our municipality”; Les jeunes entreprises), “Koffer vol ondernemingszin” and “Leeronderneming” (“A boxful of entrepreneurship” and “Learning company”; Onderwijs & Ondernemen), and so on. They represent something concrete, starting with the child’s own creativity, that makes them aware of the world of business.

For secondary schools there is a multitude of projects which complement one another, such as “Dream” (Step2you), “Entrepreneur d’un jour” (“Entrepreneur for a day”; Boost Your Talent), “J'entreprends@school” (“I run a business@school”; Groupe One) “Lespaket” (“Teaching package”; Onderwijs & Ondernemen), or “Mini-business” (Les jeunes entreprises). These go further and plunge pupils more concretely into the realities of a business.

Finally, for higher education “J'entreprends@school”, “Young enterprise project” (Les jeunes entreprises) and “Startsimulator” (Unizo) offer programmes suitable for students in a higher age bracket who are more ready to move towards actually setting up a business.

Success recognised abroad

“Boost Your Talent” was set up at the end of 2008 and its programmes have been operational since the school year 2009-2010. More than 10,290 young people from the Canal Area along with 454 teachers have been involved in the various training programmes. The goal is not to generate numerous business start-ups but to spread the spirit of entrepreneurship and sustainable initiative. "Small seeds are sown," says Laurent Staner, from Groupe One. "We’re interested in the overall path taken by young people, not necessarily in a one-off activity. And you can feel that it is having an effect on that level," adds Laurence Lievens, of Step2you.

To supplement the range of tools offered to the youngsters, “Boost Your Talent” has created the project “Entrepreneur for a day”. In a single day, a complete project is accomplished, from the design stage to distribution of the finished product: a complete initiative which often tells participants more than hours of formal instruction. And it works: “Boost your talent” was selected for the final of the European Enterprise Promotion Awards, held in Vilniusin late November.

Jean-Pierre Borloo

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