An assessment of the impact of entrepreneurship training on the youth in South Africa
Steenekamp, André Gerard
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At the bottom tip of the African continent lies South Africa – the economic powerhouse of the continent complimented by its rainbow nation with a myriad of cultures and even more opportunities, but an equal number of pressing challenges: Poverty, inequality, the prevalence of HIV/AIDS, a shortage of skilled people (or rather a surplus of unskilled people), poor quality of basic education, unemployment, and of particular importance for this study, youth unemployment. In September 2011 more than 1.3 million young South Africans aged 15 to 24 years were unemployed, and 1.85 million aged 25 to 34 years were without jobs. Combined these figures represented 71 percent of total unemployment in the third quarter of 2011. As a result, the problem statement central to this study is the expectation that the poor quality of general (basic) education and the lack of purposive entrepreneurship education and training in South African schools will continue to contribute towards high levels of youth unemployment and poverty, as well as the proliferation of dysfunctional communities and increased levels of state dependency among a large part of the country’s population. This study set out in search of answers – answers to questions regarding the impact of entrepreneurship training on the youth in South Africa as the primary objective and the potential for entrepreneurship to serve as the panacea for many of the country’s ills. The end result is a rendering of more than three years of intensive research culminating in valid conclusions and practical, attainable recommendations to promote entrepreneurial activity in the country. The study examines the theories and definitions of entrepreneurship and concludes that entrepreneurship is a combination of opportunity and risk in the presence of extraordinary levels of ‘want’ (desire) to promote self-interest, whether it being monetary reward or the attainment of personal fulfillment, as the main motivational factor driving entrepreneurial behaviour (Schumpeterian theory). The contemporary challenges facing South Africa are expounded to create a platform for the presentment of entrepreneurship as the ‘magical genie’, captured in the ‘bottle’ that is mainly the small and medium sized enterprise (SME) sector in the country, and capable of redressing many of the country’s ills by empowering the youth to take both charge of and responsibility for their own future. The concomitant discussion shows that the ‘genie’ is held firmly in the confines of its ‘bottle’ by barriers obstructing the free flow of an enterprising spirit, confirming that the release of an enterprising spirit among South Africans faces many obstacles to be overcome before the ‘genie’ can be released successfully to work its ‘magic’. The concept of entrepreneurship education is examined to determine whether it is a reality or a myth. The discussion concludes that entrepreneurship is indeed a learnt phenomenon – it can be taught successfully. It is put forward that it can only be deemed a reality to the extent in which measurable evidence of its positive impact on learners exists. This conclusion sets the tone for the empirical research in later chapters by questioning the capacity for effective entrepreneurship education in South Africa. The empirical research conducted for this study includes a pilot study and a national main study focused on examining the impact of entrepreneurship training on young learners in South African secondary schools. It is based upon the attitudinal and intentional approaches to entrepreneurship research and employs six validated entrepreneurship surveys suitable for use with young individuals to respectively measure entrepreneurial attitudes, entrepreneurial intentions, general enterprising tendencies, subjective personal well being, adaptive cognition and innovation skills. A total of 342 learners from secondary schools in the Harrismith region (Free State province) participated in the pilot study, followed by 898 respondents in the pre-testing phase and 751 in the post test phase of the AEG-3 main study and 910 respondents in the pre-testing phase and 749 in the post test phase of the PMY-3 main study. Participants in the main study originated from seven of the nine provinces of South Africa and were mainly female black Africans aged 15 to 17 years attending grades 10 and 11 at secondary schools. The data sets gathered from both the AEG-3 and PMY-3 studies were subjected to extensive statistical analyses by Statistical Consultation Services of the North-West University (Potchefstroom campus). The results lead to the conclusion that the Mini-Enterprise Programme (MEP) of Junior Achievement South Africa (JASA) did not have any visible or practically significant impact on the entrepreneurial attitudes, entrepreneurial intentions, subjective personal well being, adaptive cognition and innovation skills of learners in either of the two samples examined in the empirical research project. This conclusion reaffirms the challenges and barriers associated with releasing the spirit of enterprise among the South African youth. Although entrepreneurship can be taught effectively, it is dependent on long-term strategies providing adequate support to learners with the attitude and aptitude to become competent entrepreneurs, as well as suitable methods for continuous assessment and improvement. It further demands entrepreneurial learning enhanced by an extended period of deliberate practice (the ‘Eureka’-factor proposed in this study) flowing from ‘want’ (desire) on the part of the learner to have any chance of being truly effective. The study concludes that content and methodology borrowed from other countries may not be suited for the South African context. This conclusion exclaims the need for purposive South African entrepreneurship education and training programmes assessed with purposive South African entrepreneurship measuring scales. These conclusions are subsequently used to formulate practical and attainable recommendations for the promotion of effective youth entrepreneurship education and training in the country, including the need to get rid of high expectations, to never give up, stricter selection of learners for enrollment in entrepreneurship education and training programmes (other than those included in basic education), the need for continuous research, embracing the ‘power of one’, and finally, adopting an entrepreneurial solution for what is evidently an entrepreneurial problem. The outcome of this study brings forward the message that the challenge in South Africa is to create entrepreneurs, not young people with the capacity to perform entrepreneurial tricks. True entrepreneurs are not ordinary people, regardless of whether they are born or ‘made’. Although entrepreneurship can be learnt by any person, it takes a very special kind of ‘want’ (desire), determination and practice to become a successful entrepreneur, and even more ‘want’, determination and practice to become an expert entrepreneur.