Strengthening the entrepreneurial spirit among young people

Across Europe, around 17 percent of young people are currently looking for work. An EU project aims to counteract this.

Labor scientists from the Ruhr University in Bochum and business didactics experts from the University of Duisburg-Essen have been researching how to strengthen the entrepreneurial spirit among young people. In Greece, Spain, Lithuania, Hungary and Bulgaria, they tested two tools that measure the entrepreneurial potential of young people and then promote it in a practical way, adapting them to the specific conditions in each country. They also established a qualification program for experienced managers who are to support the young people as mentors in their start-up projects. The aim of the measures is to reduce youth unemployment and give young people prospects on the labor market in their home country.

The European Commission has been funding the project “Enterprise plus: Innovative potential meets experience” since September 2014; it will end in August 2017. The head of the research project is Dr. Martin Kröll, a labor scientist from Bochum. In addition to his team, the team led by Prof. Dr. Thomas Retzmann is involved on the side of the University of Duisburg-Essen.

Developing their own business ideas

More than 100 young people between the ages of 16 and 25 took part in the project. To this end, the scientists cooperated with schools and employment offices from the five participating countries, among others. Using a tool developed in a previous project, the potential for entrepreneurial thinking and action among the young people was first assessed. The young people then worked together with experienced managers to develop a business plan in a workshop that specifically promoted the previously identified entrepreneurial talents of the young people. The content of the workshops was based on the German Business Founder Award for school students.

Training mentors and talent scouts

To make the project sustainable, 50 mentors and 50 talent scouts were trained in each participating country to continue implementing the measures beyond the research project. Talent scouts are, for example, employees of employment offices, teachers or advisors in professional chambers. Mentors are former managers or managers who are still working. The Enterprise Plus team was able to draw on the expertise of the project partner “Alt hilft Jung” (Old Helps Young), a network of more than 80 former executives.

Scientific monitoring of the “Enterprise plus” project revealed that mentors are all the more successful in working with young people if they provide constructive feedback on content, arouse the young people’s interest and are perceived as likeable. These findings informed the development of the training concept for mentors.

The project team also provides four self-learning modules that talent scouts and mentors can use to prepare for their tasks independently. On the one hand, the modules teach how the potential analysis should be carried out. They also cover topics such as managing start-up projects, networking and business management.

Feasibility tested for each country

The potential analysis and start-up workshop can be implemented either as a crash course in five days or over several weeks. Both variants can be integrated into school lessons. The researchers worked out the ideal implementation variant for each country, with quality assurance and, in the future, the use of IT solutions playing a central role.

Information on the expert conference

On June 1 and 2, 2017, a conference on the topic of “Entrepreneurship Education in Europe” will be held at the Ruhr University Bochum. Experts will discuss how the concepts for potential analysis and founder workshops developed in the project could be established throughout Europe. Media representatives are cordially invited to attend. Registration is requested at

Information for conference visitors