Why don’t universities prepare students for self-employment?

The Guardian reports that entrepreneurship is a hot topic within universities, and there are innovative programmes helping guide the next generation of business founders. But many students are still not accessing the support needed to go it alone.

The student population has the potential to drive the UK’s boom in self-employment – since 2008 there has been a 66% increase in the number of 16- to 29-year-olds going freelance. But just 1% of freelancers learnt about self-employment in school or college and 2% in university, according to ComRes research last year. More must be done so that young people recognise self-employment as a viable career path.

The largest group of freelancers are those working within arts and the media, and the fastest growing cohort is health professionals. Yet many universities place their entrepreneur support solely within their business departments and, as many faculties operate separately, this can mean self-employed education isn’t accessible to students from other disciplines.

The International Entrepreneurship Educators Conference next week will focus on how institutions can better provide enterprise and entrepreneurial skills for everyone. We need to ensure that business advice and entrepreneurialism is not limited to business students. Middlesex University, for example, has modules such as Music Entrepreneurship which give practical guidance on self-employment for arts students.

Universities should promote how students can reflect on their existing talents and hone their skills to begin their own viable business. Entrepreneurialism doesn’t have to be about something ground-breaking, and careers officers should highlight the market for freelancers required to work on a project-by-project basis.

In addition, more colleges need to bring practice into the curriculum. Nottingham Trent University has done this with its “live-trading” modules, offered as part of its decorative arts degree, in which students conduct a large-scale research project on how to start their own business.

Educational institutions need to continue to work towards broadening the understanding of what it means to work for yourself, and make freelancing and self-employment visible. In that way, young people will be prepared to positively kick-start their independent careers.

Read more Why don’t universities prepare students for self-employment?

Does your University or College provided courses/information to encourage students to go freelance? Please tell us your thoughts in comment or via Twitter~ Tamsin

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