New York University researchers evaluated the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship’s (NFTE) 2014 summer entrepreneurship programs, designed to introduce teenage students to the concepts of entrepreneurship while developing their academic and life skills.
“Summer learning loss is a significant problem for students who aren’t engaged during summer vacation. However, summer programs are a way to help students improve their academic skills in nonacademic settings,” said Meryle Weinstein, research assistant professor of education policy at NYU’s Steinhardt and the Institute for Education and Social Policy.
“In our report on NFTE’s summer entrepreneurship programs, many students indicated that the business-related skills they learned would help them in other parts of their lives, including academic areas such as writing and math, and even managing personal finances.”
Teaching entrepreneurship – how to create, grow, and run a business or organization – is a potential way to increase college and career readiness skills. NFTE’s 2014 summer programs, in which students learned basic business skills while developing an “entrepreneurial mindset,” served more than 450 at-risk teens in 10 cities across the country. Through classroom instruction, field trips to local businesses, guest speakers, working with mentors, and a business plan competition for seed funding, students worked to develop skills and knowledge essential for successful entrepreneurship.
Weinstein and her colleagues used both qualitative methods (interviews, observations, and focus groups) and surveys before and after the summer program to evaluate its implementation and benefit to students. The surveys were developed to measure business knowledge as well as “entrepreneurial mindset,” a collection of qualities and skills including communication and collaboration, initiative, persistence, self-direction, critical thinking, and problem solving.
Key findings of the report include:
- Approximately 95 percent of students agreed or strongly agreed that the skills they learned in the program would help them in their life and in business.
- 90 percent of students indicated that the skills they learned and experiences in the summer program would help them in school.
- Students reported an improvement in their communication and problem solving skills as a result of the program.
- Although students reported they were more prepared to start a business after completing the program, they were less likely to be interested in starting one. Prior to participating, 91 percent of students reported wanting to own a business, which declined slightly to 85 percent after.
- Funding, youth, and lack of business skills were commonly cited as barriers to starting a business prior to the summer program. After the summer program, students perceived their skills, ideas, or resources as less of a problem, but were more likely to report that they were too busy to start a business. Many students worried about the competing time demands of starting a business and going to school.
“In our research, almost all students remarked on the significant effort and time required to start and run a business, and often spoke about the important role of both persistence and passion,” Weinstein said. “Participating in the program may have served to clarify student career goals and interests.”
The study was conducted by Weinstein, Megan Silander, and Michael Chavez-Reilly of NYU’s Institute for Education and Social Policy, a joint initiative of the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development and the Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service. The summer programs and NYU assessment were funded by a grant from the Citi Foundation as part of their Pathways to Progress initiative.
(NYU researchers evaluated the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship’s 2014 summer entrepreneurship programs, designed to introduce teenage students to the concepts of entrepreneurship while developing their academic and life skills. Photo courtesy of NFTE.)