How do you make an entrepreneur?


EY Global

Multidisciplinary professional services organization

3 minute read 26 Apr 2018

Some people may be born entrepreneurs. But with the right education and employment policies, we can help create many more.

Even now, many years after the crash, global unemployment remains above its pre-crisis levels. And according to the International Labour Organization, it’s still increasing.

This is part of the reason why under-25s are three times more likely than older people to be unemployed — and the problem is not going away. Even without potential job losses, the world economy needs to create tens of millions of additional jobs every year, just to provide employment for new entrants to the labor market.

This poses a significant long-term challenge for both businesses and governments, but it’s also a significant opportunity.

How can we help young people help themselves?

In any time of change, it’s through innovation and adaptation that new opportunities can be created.

This is why, if the next generation is to have the opportunity to find fulfilling careers, they need to acquire the attributes that will help them adapt and thrive in a world where the only certainty is change.

To do that, says Maria Pinelli, EY Partner and Chair of the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE), “they need belief in their ability to shape their own futures; they need to get comfortable with taking risks; and they need to build the knowhow, confidence and resilience to innovate in the face of challenges.”

In short, they need to think like entrepreneurs.

Shaping education policy to support entrepreneurship

At the 2015 G20 Young Entrepreneurs’ Alliance (YEA) Summit in Turkey, EY released a report, From classroom to boardroom: creating a culture for high impact entrepreneurship, exploring how education policy can help to create the conditions that enable entrepreneurs to thrive. It made six key policy recommendations for governments to encourage entrepreneurial innovation and accelerate job creation:

  1. Create a G20 multilateral start-up visa, as multilateral visas or regional visa programs are crucial in improving labor mobility, conducting business internationally, and transferring positive entrepreneurial cultures and norms throughout the G20
  2. Encourage international networking, to help entrepreneurs support each other and discover business opportunities
  3. Start teaching entrepreneurship early, in primary schools
  4. Continue these programs during secondary and tertiary education, with a pivot toward vocational education and industry partnerships
  5. Focus on quality entrepreneurship and quality employment, supporting knowledge transfer and risk-taking
  6. Establish longitudinal programs, to link culture and education to impact

A cultural shift won’t happen overnight — in fact, it will take a generation, if not more. For governments, this means a long-term commitment to supporting entrepreneurship through education.

Six specific recommendations for encouraging entrepreneurship

How to nurture entrepreneurial natures

“We need to embed teaching of an entrepreneurial mindset — characteristics such as initiative and self-direction, flexibility and adaptability, and creativity and innovation — at the heart of our education systems,” says Pinelli.

Currently, however, a big challenge is that “entrepreneurial mindsets don’t lend themselves well to standardized testing,” Pinelli says. As a result, other, more easily measured areas of intelligence, such as mathematics and language, tend to be given greater priority.

With this in mind, the NFTE, supported by EY, is developing an Entrepreneurial Mindset Index (EMI) that, for the first time, will enable schools to reliably identify and measure the presence of entrepreneurial skills in their students.

If what gets measured gets done, as seems to be the case in our education systems, then this is a potential game changer — one that paves the way for a much more systematic approach to cultivating entrepreneurial attitudes and behaviors.
Maria Pinelli
EY Partner and Chair of the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE)

While some people may seem to be born entrepreneurs, and many inspirational innovators may share certain characteristics, one thing is clear — the right mix of education and experience is vital to entrepreneurial success. Entrepreneurs can be made — and for the good of the global economy and society, we need to make more of them.


For the good of the global economy and future job creation, we need to harness our education systems to create more entrepreneurs.

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EY Global

Multidisciplinary professional services organization