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Recruiting Intelligence

Self-Made: Supporting Entrepreneurship and Tech Training for International Students


Before our international blogger Emily shares some insights into supporting entrepreneurial-minded students, Denver is the PLACE TO BE next week! #NAFSA16 We will be co-presenting new research with FPPEDUMedia on how current global, economic and political events are impacting students’ plans to study abroad. We will be in room CCC, Mile High Ballroom 4DE on Wednesday, June 1 at 10AM. Don’t miss this potentially game-changing research! We also invite you to schedule a time to chat with us during the conference. We are looking forward to meeting you!

This week we address international students as budding entrepreneurs…

We all know the story of Facebook, right? Or, should we say, we all know the story of Mark Zuckerberg? You know, the startup hero who began Facebook while he was studying at Harvard who is now worth $51.9 billion? While many young people dream of following a similar path, they have trouble finding systems to support them on their entrepreneurial journey. Beyond education, they need connections to the business and technology world. Universities are taking notice of these dreamers and doers, and it’s paying off.

Bottom Line: Business management is the most commonly chosen major for international students. With 197,258 international students studying for this degree, keeping a competitive edge in the field is key. To give students the return on investment they are looking for, universities need to prepare students for new challenges in the business world. It is a tech driven world and your students need to be well-prepared for tech challenges. Students are searching for quality entrepreneurial-focused programs but the programs still aren’t that widespread. Through events like hackathons and other marketing efforts you can attract potential entrepreneurial-focused international students—IF you have the programs to support them. Intrigued? Read more for some tips on how to attract these kind of tech-savvy, forward-thinking students.

Many students see university programs as means to beef up their entrepreneurial and tech skills. Even though support lags behind, the interest from students is largely there. OECD data from 2009 shows that, in the UK, 600,000 young people had explored the idea of starting their own business and around 16% had engaged in a start-up. Each of these created around three to four jobs and 65% were still trading four years later.

It is important to note two things with this data. First, it is a bit older but the key insight is still there. Students need to have considerable confidence in their skills in order to start their own business. When students have the tools they need to begin a project, they often succeed.

Second, although this data is from the UK, it isn’t necessarily specific to the UK. With a youth unemployment rate of 13.7% in the UK, startups are taking root. Still, new business is also important in places like startup-centered Nigeria where the youth unemployment rate is 19% or tech-focused Kenya where the youth unemployment rate hovers around 25%. We’ve mentioned Nigeria and Kenya as good possibilities for recruiting in other posts. These are places where young people are focused on startups because they are being pushed to create jobs for themselves due to the lousy labor market. Major cities are centered on new ways of doing business and students from these places are tech savvy and startup ready.

Entrepreneurship Training

Some students see entrepreneurship as a glamorous way out of a regular desk job but for others it is all about simply creating a job in a market where jobs are hard to find. And technology has opened the floodgates to entrepreneurs in ways previous generations could never have imagined. Students are aware of the direction that the market is going and they are driven to prepare themselves for it. They really want to take advantage of these new opportunities. Ahh, youth and boundless hope ;-)

Current programs in entrepreneurship have their finger on the pulse of the current business landscape. We’re sure you remember the European Region Action Scheme for the Mobility of University Students (Erasmus+)? We wrote about it here. You’re probably still in awe of their success in doubling the number of participating students between the 2013/14 and 2014/15 school years, as well as their impressive track record for ensuring employment for their students. Erasmus+ also has a program aimed at improving the skills of young entrepreneurs. As it turns out, the Erasmus for Young Entrepreneurs program, which sends entrepreneurs abroad to learn from experienced entrepreneurs, is also successful. A report measuring the success after the first 5 years of the program found:    

“Newly established entrepreneurs that participated in Erasmus for Young Entrepreneurs programme exhibit considerably higher survival rates than average European small and medium-sized enterprises. While 87% of new entrepreneurs from the programme are still in business after their exchange, the average three-year survival rate of companies in Europe stands at only 57%.”

Within the U.S., you can look to Northeastern’s IDEA accelerator, UC Berkeley’s SkyDeck or the Martin Trust Center for MIT Entrepreneurship and see examples of programs that are flourishing. But we don’t believe your institution has to be big to create a big splash in the entrepreneurship realm. Building up a good reputation for your entrepreneurship program means creating the right kind of networking opportunities for students, partnering with well-known and reliable businesses, and teaching essential skills such as pitching and fundraising techniques. And making sure prospective international students know these are part of your curriculum.

Big universities don’t have a monopoly on these skills. Those who adopt quality entrepreneurship programs early will have the edge as they create a solid reputation before the rest of the pack catches up. Whether you choose entrepreneurial certificate programs, mentorship opportunities, traineeships or degrees, these programs can bolster the success of your entrepreneurial-minded prospective students. Consider simple steps like building your alumni network on Linked In, AND promoting that as a benefit of enrolling at your institution. Yes, our continual focus on promoting your student outcomes: Where are the jobs and how will you help me get a good one?

Information and Communication Technology Education

These days, it is impossible to talk about entrepreneurship without talking about technology. So, let’s talk about it! Pew Research Center’s data from 2015 reported that 92% of American teens go online daily. Seventy-three percent of teens have access to a smartphone. And 87% reported that they have access to a desktop or laptop computer. These numbers vary worldwide but across the board, young people are using technology. And the reality is, everyone you want to attract is on their mobile phone right now, or will be within the hour.

University run hackathons are one way to give students the chance to expand their programming knowledge. These events bring together computer programmers, software developers, hardware developers, graphic designers, interface designers and other tech-minded students to collaborate on software projects. Hackathons usually last several days and give participants the opportunity to collaborate with others in the programming world. They also allow students the time and space to develop their money-making ideas.

Ishan Puri, a Stanford graduate and technologist wrote in a blog for HuffPost Education that hackathons are a great way for students to test their projects and add to their portfolios. Students can also use these events to connect with like-minded tech geeks and form potential business relationships.

Can you create a hackathon that brings prospective students to campus? Can it be done in a way that invites international collaborators? Are you seeing the recruiting opportunity? The brand building for your entrepreneurial campus?

A quick Google search of “university hackathons” will show you that plenty of universities are jumping on the trend. Universities have also recognized the need for better, more prominent entrepreneurship training. In some cases, students have demanded it. Based on some old school economic theory, where there is demand, supply will follow.

See you in Denver!