Friday, March 23 , 2018, 2:33 am | Fair 51º


Tom Donohue: Entrepreneurship Should Be Central to Student Education

It's vital that young Americans know they can fuel prosperity with their own ideas and hard work

As we gear up for a new school year, it’s worth highlighting a subject as essential to many young Americans’ education and our collective future as reading, writing and arithmetic — entrepreneurship. Unfortunately, it’s often overlooked.

Facing slow economic growth and chronic joblessness, it’s vital that we teach our students about enterprise and encourage them to pursue entrepreneurial career paths. Students are often told to forgo a business career in favor of something that advances the common good. What better way to contribute to the good of this nation than by creating employment and opportunity?

American startups collectively add an average of 3 million jobs to the U.S. economy. Business and entrepreneurship are noble livelihoods, and it’s time we build that mind-set into our education system.

The good news is that American students seem to have a sense of the power and importance of enterprise — and an appetite for it. According to a nationwide survey of high school students conducted by the National Chamber Foundation and the Junior Achievement youth business organization, many of our nation’s teenagers have a sophisticated understanding of how free enterprise functions in our society. These teens get that we need the energy of enterprise to fuel our prosperity.

Moreover, they want to be the ones driving it. Sixty-four percent say that they are interested in starting their own businesses some day, and many of them already have. Through ventures both simple and ambitious, more students are starting businesses. This initiative and self-sufficiency will serve them well as they continue their education, enter the workforce and build the enterprises of tomorrow.

But the fact that some are already taking proactive steps reflects the concern of young people entering higher education or the workforce. Many high school students are troubled about whether they’ll find jobs when they need them. Nearly 90 percent are worried about their future prospects in this economy.

We need to match the ambitions and aspirations of our students with concrete opportunities to explore entrepreneurship throughout their education. We need to ease the worries of many young Americans by showing them they can take charge of their lives and careers through their own ideas and hard work.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Campaign for Free Enterprise is partnering with local schools, chambers of commerce and youth organizations such as the Young Entrepreneurs Academy and Empact. Our goal is to instill the principles of free enterprise in the next generation and empower students with the skills, knowledge and experience to be successful.

— Tom Donohue is president and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

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