Entrepreneurship Education Helps Put Kids on the Path to Success

02/09/2015 04:56 pm ET | Updated Apr 11, 2015

The Milstein Commission, convened by the University of Virginia to identify pathways for Americans to achieve middle class success, recently released its findings. The commission's report, "Can Startups Save the American Dream?" identified ways to jumpstart America's entrepreneurial engine by providing new businesses with access to capital, information, and support.

What helped distinguish the Milstein Commission's work is that it went beyond the "nuts and bolts" or what goes into creating a business. It also touched on important aspects of how we prepare our young people to take on the challenge of entrepreneurship. Before we give aspiring business owners this needed support, how do we nurture the entrepreneurial spark in them so they are interested in starting a business in the first place? Moreover, how do we help our young people translate ideas into actions that can create jobs and spur economic growth?

Entrepreneurship education was cited as an important means of building the middle class by Carly Fiorina, Milstein Commission member and former HP CEO. Entrepreneurship education provides students with important real-world learning experiences that translate to business ownership or success in the workplace. Young people learn how to effectively collaborate, communicate, and apply critical thinking and creativity to solving challenges. It can provide a path to a successful and fulfilling future.

According to the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), two-thirds of all new U.S. jobs in 2014 were created by small businesses--that's 2 million jobs created by entrepreneurs in one year. During our recovery from the Great Recession, 7 million of 11 million new jobs were created by entrepreneurs.

Despite these numbers, the historic trend for business creation is on a downturn. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 1978 nearly 15 percent of all businesses were less than one-year-old...what we would call a "startup" today. Today, that number is eight percent. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that businesses open less than one year in 1998 employed more than 5 million Americans. Today, it is about half that number.

There are several factors behind these declines, from increased automation in the workplace to global outsourcing. Whatever the cause, there is one indisputable fact....the United States needs more small businesses to create jobs, provide more opportunity and to help the country remain competitive in the global marketplace.

While entities like the SBA, incubators and banks are providing the tools to help make small businesses successful, it's often up to education organizations to provide the spark that inspires a young person to dream of being the next Steve Jobs, Meg Whitman or Sheila Johnson.

Organizations like Junior Achievement prepare young people for their future economic success through engagement with successful business mentors and with time-tested experiential programs that give many their first glimpse at what being an entrepreneur entails. These volunteers are key to the success of these programs because they augment the learning experience with professional and personal insight while providing the positive role models which many youths sorely need.

Nonprofit rganizations like Junior Achievement work effectively with our nation's business and education communities to deliver meaningful and relevant entrepreneurship education experiences to help prepare every student for future economic success. Learn how you can get involved, at www.ja.org.