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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

Young and old professionals join forces against youth unemployment – Work scientists at Ruhr-Universität Bochum have launched their new EU project “Enterprise+”

Experienced executives encourage entrepreneurial spirit of young professionals

Young professionals who are starting their own business create new jobs not only for themselves, but potentially also for other people in the same age bracket. Striving to make a contribution to the reduction of youth unemployment in Europe, work scientists at Ruhr-Universität Bochum and economy educationalists at University Duisburg-Essen support this strategy. Experienced executives will nurture the entrepreneurial spirit of young professionals in Greece, Spain, Lithuania, Hungary, and Bulgaria. The joint project “Enterprise+ – Innovative Potential Meets Experience” is sponsored with 450,000 Euro by the EU programme “Erasmus+”, and it is conducted by Dr Martin Kröll, Institute of Work Science at Ruhr-Universität Bochum.

Detecting and boosting potentials

The project targets young people between 15 and 25 years of age. The scientists cooperate with schools and job centres from all five participating countries. “We encourage the young professionals’ entrepreneurial competences by providing feedback discussions at an early stage. For the purpose of potential analysis, we deploy a tool from the Losleger project, which enables us to detect the young professionals’ strengths and render it visible,” says Prof Dr Thomas Retzmann from the Chair of Economics and Economic Education at University Duisburg-Essen. In addition, the young managers will receive a certificate that documents their results. A potential company founder can then submit that certificate to, for example, banks, venture-capital funds or public funding institutions to apply for start-up capital.

Old and young professionals are learning from each other

Experienced executives are at hand to provide help and advice to the young participants of “Enterprise+”. The executives are older than 55 years of age; some of them are still working, others are retired. They share their experience and their professional knowledge with the young professionals, thus helping them to recognise and develop their own entrepreneurial strengths. “We hope that this exchange between old and young professionals will result in profitable learning effects on both sides. Our objective is to have the partners in the participating countries initiate projects that will perpetuate that exchange,” says Martin Kröll. Based on the experiences gained during the project, self-learning modules will be developed in the individual countries.

International partners

The work scientists from Bochum are supported by partners from Germany, Greece, Spain, Lithuania, Hungary, and Bulgaria under the umbrella of the “Enterprise+” project. In Germany, the organisation “Alt hilft Jung NRW e.V.” and the Chair of Economics and Economic Education at University Duisburg-Essen contribute their expertise in potential analysis to the project. The Greek partners include the technology park of Crete, which is part of FORTH, the biggest research centre in Greece, and the consulting company „eniochos.CONSULTING“; in Spain, the European company centre for innovation and entrepreneurship supports the project. In both Hungary and Bulgaria, the respective Chamber of Industry and Commerce is likely to get on board, and in Lithuania it is the German Chamber of Commerce Abroad (AHK Baltische Staaten). In their evaluation of “Enterprise+”, the reviewers have first and foremost praised the inclusion of the participating countries as well as local development and realisation of measures.