To succeed in any industry in the 21st Century, alongside discipline expertise you need commercial savvy, resourcefulness, conﬁdence and bags of tenacity. Today's graduates need to show self-sufficiency in their careers and can’t simply rely on academic achievements to secure a livelihood.
The atmosphere of the business school, once the domain of those destined for entrepreneurship, is no longer the only place that young people should be learning about how to set up, market and maintain an enterprise. In recent years there has been a falling off of MBA applications worldwide but that doesn’t mean that the need for business skills is becoming less important. In fact, as lives are increasingly spent online it is now possible to buy, sell, endorse, feedback, fund and promote all at the touch of a button.
Bedroom projects are able to grow into multimillion pound businesses at the same time the 'job for life' has become extinct. Graduates need to hit the ground running on the job market, whether they’re looking to take on a full time role or find work through a growing ‘gig economy’. So isn't it time that universities started to educate their alumni and students as entrepreneurs? After all, higher education is renowned for being a hotbed for radical change in all kinds of social, cultural and economic directions. I am not suggesting that we move away from skills development or academic integrity, but I do believe that we will be setting ourselves up to fail if we do not address employability and self sufﬁciency in all our graduates. Entrepreneurship should be embedded as part of the university experience.
Whilst it is true that preparing graduates in this way has traditionally had more success in the scientiﬁc and technological ﬁelds, entrepreneurship training should be curriculum-wide and that means including the arts. We know that in the context of educating performers and creative artists it is not enough to teach people to be great actors, musicians and theatre technicians - you also have to give them the skills to root their artistic lives in the communities around them and to manage their careers as a business.
Universities take note. Enterprise can be born of any discipline, but it is a skill set that is becoming increasingly important to graduate success in the current climate.
Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and start-ups account for 59% of private sector employment and contribute to almost half of commercial turnover in Britain. The impact of entrepreneurship goes beyond the individual, but affects our country’s success. So let's re-assess how we teach our students in preparation for life outside and encourage a new generation of entrepreneurs.
By Helena Gaunt, Vice Principal and Director of Affairs at London's Guildhall School of Music and Drama