COLUMN: We must educate kids about entrepreneurship

My mother’s latest triumph with my three kids was to suggest they “play business” in response to their moans of “I’m bored.”

She set them up with some Monopoly money and they found things to sell. My eight-year-old son found some boxes for packaging and my three-year-old tried to buy everything in sight.

Two hours later, they were still engrossed in pricing products and setting up shops to look their best.

My mother’s triumph got me thinking about a serious challenge we face in this country. With two thirds of Canada’s small business owners planning to exit their businesses over the next 10 years, the country needs to boost production of what is, perhaps, our most important natural resource: entrepreneurs.

Is our education system up to the task?

My kids come home from school having learned all kinds of exciting things but the importance of business isn’t one of them.

I am not alone in thinking the education system could do a much better job of profiling business. In a recent poll done by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, only 21% of small business owners said Canadian schools put enough emphasis on starting a business as a career option.

Spending time on business education would be a great service to our kids and our country. Running a business is a rewarding career choice.

Consider that 83% of business owners would choose the same career path again and 78% would encourage young people to go into business. In today’s economy, it makes sense to get kids thinking about all of their options.

More broadly, entrepreneurial societies are innovative, successful societies, creating jobs and opportunity. When two thirds of current business owners who are responsible for close to half of private-sector jobs plan to retire in the next decade, it underscores the importance of nurturing business as a viable option.

Where will that new crop of business leaders come from?

Some of today’s businesses will be passed on within families. CFIB research shows that 37% of business owners plan to follow this route, and these young people have their parents as entrepreneurial models.

Doesn’t it make sense for other potential owners to be exposed to business as a career option at school?

My mother ran her own business for many years so it was more natural for her to suggest “playing business” to my kids than the other popular childhood game of “playing school.”

Groups such as Junior Achievement do a good job of introducing kids to basic business ideas but the program isn’t available everywhere.

To complement the work they do, it would be nice to see schools getting more creative about how to make sure entrepreneurship gets the attention it deserves.

Laura Jones is executive vice-president of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, which represents small- and medium-sized businesses and has more than 109,000 members.



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