The lure of entrepreneurialism is strong in Australia, with 2.2 million businesses actively trading across the country.
Meanwhile, a recent report from NAB Group Economics found that around 1 in 3 Australians would like to own their own business with young Australians (18-29) the most aspirational (nearly 1 in 2)[i].
With these statistics in mind, educational institutions would be wise to recognise small business education and training as a career path, insisted Anne Nalder, Founder / CEO of Small Business Association of Australia.
In a presentation at Mt Gravatt TAFE Campus in Brisbane in late November, Anne told an audience of teachers and small business owners, “To be a smart and sophisticated country, each child in Australia regardless of socio-economic background must be allowed to succeed.”
Social and economic policies must be intertwined
Regrettably, social and economic policy are not operating hand in glove, according to Anne. The resulting disconnect means more families and their children are thrown into the poverty trap – a trap that is difficult to escape.
Anne continued, “Today, more and more, we have a class divide. Young people are slipping through the system, and there are dysfunctional families. Some of these children have no hope in the world, and by ignoring them, we are creating a rod for our backs that will cost us more in the long run. And is this what we want?”
Small business school for 6 year olds
As a small business leader, Anne is repeatedly asked by educators how the school system can prepare students for the workforce. “My typical response is to forget about CVs because this question requires a different approach. The current system is not working and when in business, if the model does not work, you change it,” she urges.
“So, my big, bold idea is to introduce a small business course in state schools commencing in Year 1. By doing this, you prepare students for life regardless of the pathways they choose.
“The program must cater to different age groups from Years 1 to 12 and be compulsory. It must be fun and include practical and theory and cover every aspect of small business. When you start to think of the course and how it could be conducted, it could be extremely exciting.”
Dedicated small business classes
Anne cautioned that for the training to be valuable, the classes must be dedicated to small business skills only. “I am aware that there are some courses available in schools that make mention of small business, but what I have seen is poorly constructed and confusing.”
For small business education to help produce future entrepreneurs, Anne advised the training must cover many skills, including:
- English and Math instruction
- Assistance with the development of entrepreneurship and innovation
- Confidence building
- Interpersonal skills
- Budgeting and finance
- Public speaking
- Marketing, advertising, and public relations
- Graphics and design
- International trade including exporting
- Staff recruitment, retention, and other workplace matters
- Tendering and the procurement process
- The role of government.
“This is not an exhaustive list but if a student has undertaken 12 years of small business studies you can imagine how beneficial that student would be to any employer,” Anne said.
“For starters, school leavers would have a grasp of how a small business operates and what is required to ensure its viability.”
She continued, “Moreover, the training would also be beneficial in large corporations and would not be lost on students who may enter university or the public service as many would end up becoming a small business owner themselves. And instead of a person entering the small business world as they do now without the skills and knowledge, they would have a head start.”
Recognise small business as a career pathway
To facilitate a pathway for future entrepreneurs, the education system must recognise small business as a career pathway. “The wonderful thing about small business is you can become a business owner at any age, you don’t need a maze of degrees, and it is one way of creating wealth.
“That said, what you need today, unlike years ago is having a better insight into what a small business is, capital and a more sophisticated approach.”
A focus on small business from Year 1 will make Australia more competitive suggested Anne. “We are part of the global community, and that means international competition.
“This would be an excellent project for TAFE. With the support of the Queensland Government, for example, TAFE could take a small business syllabus into the state schools.
“Furthermore, the Small Business Association of Australia would be delighted to be involved with TAFE in a consulting role when drafting and designing the curriculum.”
In conclusion, Anne envisioned, “If we have young children in Master Chef series doing the most amazing things, imagine their creativity if they did a small business course.”