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Entrepreneurialism

Willing to risk for reward

Feb 1, 2014

“I’ve seen a real uptick with respect to the focus of educational organizations trying to bring [entrepreneurialism] up to a much greater level than it used to be.” But it will take some time to see the effects of that renewed emphasis.” – David Edmonds, industry committee chair, A100 Group

When asked what phrase sums up Alberta’s sentiment toward business, “entrepreneurial spirit” will be most every Albertan’s first response. Indeed, some of the strongest opinions recorded on the entire 2014 survey were to the question, “Alberta is an entrepreneurial business community,” which saw a response score of 6.57, or strongly agree.

Hacking the data by industry, we find that Alberta’s education offerings display the most divergence of opinion. Asked to agree or disagree with the statement, “Alberta’s education system showcases entrepreneurship as a career choice,” the technology sector mildly disagreed with the statement (score: 3.13), while the oil and gas sector mildly agreed (score: 4.94).

Jennifer Grimm, who describes her title as chief “vision” officer at Lux Beauty, a beauty retailer in Edmonton, says schools could better expose students to entrepreneurialism and mentor those who display an aptitude. She says some children have talents that aren’t revealed through testing and other ways schools evaluate them. “I think people who are born entrepreneurs in particular fall into that category,” she says. To help these students, Grimm says the school system should “put them on to different projects to play to their strengths.”

Survey Says

There are two challenges when it comes to entrepreneurialism and Alberta, according to Craig Elias, a sessional instructor with the Haskayne School of Business in Calgary. The first is the iceberg; the second is the oil patch. Iceberg? “A lot of this stuff hides under the surface, kind of like an iceberg,” Elias says, referring to government funding for entrepreneurial pursuits. “Entrepreneurs hang out in certain circles, but where the funding is is somewhere else,” he says. “Part of the challenge is that these sources don’t go where the entrepreneur is; they expect the entrepreneur to find them.” Add in the oil patch and the lure of a high-paying job for low effort and you kill entrepreneurialism, Elias adds. “In some respects that does become a challenge,” he says. “‘Hey, do I really want to do this for the next five years, or do I just want to move to Fort McMurray and make a hundred and fifty grand?’”

David Edmonds, chair of the industry committee with the A100 group, a non-profit composed of tech entrepreneurs who’ve started, grown and sold companies, says while education may appear to be failing, we need to wait another cycle for the myriad programs created to address the issue have an impact. “I’ve seen a real uptick on the focus of education organizations trying to bring entrepreneurialism] up to a much greater level than it used to be,” Edmonds says. “Most of these programs are three or four years old. You’re going to need a cycle” to see results, he says. He points to programs at the University of Alberta, University of Calgary and Mount Royal University that have been co-designed by members of the A100 group as proof things are changing.

You Said It

“With regards to the question about offering entrepreneurship courses/opportunities at school – I am not sure how you can teach this. Entrepreneurs have a unique outlook on life, success, failure and managing the pressures of business. I think you can teach business skills, but not the underlying ethos of entrepreneurship. Either you are or you are not an entrepreneur.”
– Gena Rotstein, President And Ceo, Dexterity Consulting

Size Matters
By and large, smaller companies were more disappointed ...
… about their access to programs and services that could potentially contribute to their success, and about the performance of the educational system in introducing students to entrepreneurship. Here are the average scores across all company sizes.
03_entrepreneur_story2
You Said It

“With regards to the question about offering entrepreneurship courses/opportunities at school – I am not sure how you can teach this. Entrepreneurs have a unique outlook on life, success, failure and managing the pressures of business. I think you can teach business skills, but not the underlying ethos of entrepreneurship. Either you are or you are not an entrepreneur.”
– Rob Wiedeman, former mayor, Parkland County

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