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Time for America to Go to Entrepreneurship School

Time for America to Go to Entrepreneurship School

by Brandon Busteed

Here's a new, old idea for America: Let's identify, recruit, develop, and make a welcoming home for all the entrepreneurs in the world. We've done it before, and we can do it again. But to do it again, it will require all of us to go back to entrepreneurship school.

Gallup Chairman and CEO, Jim Clifton, has sent leaders worldwide back to their drawing boards on job creation with his book The Coming Jobs War. What Gallup has learned, and what Jim has convincingly argued, is that new job creation is almost entirely in the hands of small and medium-sized businesses. In other words, it's all about startups and shoot-ups. And those come from entrepreneurs.

America's economic engine rises and falls on the backs of entrepreneurs. The cities and countries with more entrepreneurs win. It's that simple. And yet everyone is missing this point. This year's presidential election was a good example: Americans cited "the economy" as their number one issue. The candidates spent billions of dollars making the case that their plan for the economy was better. And yet, throughout all the debates and all the ads, there was barely a mention of entrepreneurs.

If we want to win the coming jobs war, or at least avoid getting wiped out by China, we need to create the world's most potent entrepreneurial talent pipeline. This pipeline is our education system. And in it, everyone counts: K-12 public schools, private schools, charters, colleges and universities, and all the vocational training programs. But our current system not only fails to embrace entrepreneurs -- in many ways it holds them back.

Gallup's findings on entrepreneurs tell us they are not typically the kids with the best grades, the kids who pay the most attention in class, or the kids who follow the traditional education paths. If we made this idea of becoming the world's "entrepreneurial talent pipeline" a national priority, we'd start by reimagining and reinventing our entire education system. And we'd want to move real fast. So, in particular, we'd focus on building alternative pathways through our educational system that identify and develop entrepreneurial talent in the same way that we identify and develop sheer IQ and knowledge tests. The SAT would have a new counterpart -- the ETA (Entrepreneur Talent Assessment) -- and there would be scholarships and special programs for entrepreneurs.

This is not a crazy idea. In fact, Gallup has just launched a scientifically valid assessment of entrepreneurial talent, one which provides developmental guidance for the entrepreneur and for their mentors and teachers.

The first school Gallup is rolling this program out to is not Harvard, nor Princeton, nor any of the traditional names most of us may think about. It's the International Culinary Center -- one of the most prestigious and productive culinary schools in the world. They have been the launch pad of many world-renowned chefs, and they will soon be seen as a rocket for new job creation. You see, chefs areentrepreneurs. The success of their restaurants depends on how well they can cook and on whether they are good at starting and running a business. Culinary schools have always taught cooking. Now, the International Culinary Center is not only developing entrepreneurs as part of their curriculum, but also looking to identify and recruit them.

Vocational training in the U.S., tragically, has a negative connotation. It's seen as second or third place to college. But that's about to change. Vocational training is entrepreneurship. And entrepreneurship is the hottest ticket on the planet. Farmers, restaurateurs, and trades such as electricians and plumbers - all of them entrepreneurs. You don't need a degree to start a company. But if we do this right, we'll have a lot more entrepreneurs with degrees and trade skills, simply because we engineered these programs to embrace them and their talents, as opposed to neutralizing or marginalizing them.

All educational institutions can and must move in the direction of embracing entrepreneurs, but those who move fast will win the most talent, prestige, and alumni financial windfalls. Vocational programs have a history of moving real fast. And they will be leading the way in getting America back to entrepreneurship school.

In the meantime, Gallup is ready to play our role in identifying all the entrepreneurial talent in the country, and that starts with our entrepreneurial talent pipeline -- aka schools.

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