Harnessing Entrepreneurship Education for Economic Growth and Unemployment Reduction in the Era of Disruption

Harnessing Entrepreneurship Education for Economic Growth and Unemployment Reduction in the Era of Disruption

Copyright: © 2024 |Pages: 25
DOI: 10.4018/979-8-3693-0409-9.ch003
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This study explores creative disruption and entrepreneurial education in higher education, focusing on the South African context. It highlights the importance of integrating disruptive elements and fostering entrepreneurial mindsets to prepare students for the modern world. The study examines theoretical implications, including adapting traditional approaches to a changing business landscape. Practical recommendations include teaching entrepreneurship, project-based learning, and collaborations with industry. By embracing creative disruption and fostering entrepreneurial mindsets, higher education institutions in South Africa can play a crucial role in nurturing a generation of graduates equipped with the skills, mindset, and adaptability needed to thrive in an evolving entrepreneurial ecosystem.
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“Creativity is not the acquisition of knowledge per se, but rather what we can do with our knowledge”- Quintin, 2009.

The world has experienced a multitude of disruptive events recently, including COVID-19, political instability, technological innovations, climate change, cybersecurity breaches, and demographic changes. These changes have had significant effects on many sectors, including higher education (Allam, Bibri & Sharpe, 2022; Avula et al., 2022). In particular, the global economy has been hit hard, leading to massive job losses, the closure of businesses, economic downturns, and even deaths in many countries. Governments and central banks around the world have adopted stimulus packages, loan programmes, and interest rate cuts to cushion their economies from these challenges (IMF, 2022, Reuters, 2020). However, these measures have not been sufficient, as high inflation has reversed gains and put families in debt.

The global unemployment rate is on the rise, with South Africa leading the pack with an unemployment rate projected at 35.6% compared to the rest of the world in 2023 (World Economic Forum, 2023). Companies are hesitant to employ more people due to sluggish economic growth and tight labour laws, and in some instances, forcing some workers to accept lower paying positions (ILO, 2023a). In fact, empirical evidence indicates that a significant number of middle-market companies face challenges in terms of their capacity to attract, develop, and retain highly skilled employees due to limited resources (Calk & Patrick, 2017; De Smet, Dowling, Hancock & Schaninger, 2022). Adding to this, recent economic indicators reveal that the South African economy experienced stagnant growth during the first quarter of 2023, following a negative performance in the fourth quarter of 2022 (Stats SA, 2023a).

This alarming trend has a direct implication for higher education students as they enter the changing world of economies. On the other hand, the labour market is showing a growing gap between the skills that the market is supplying versus what the demand side wants. Many jobs remain unfilled while there are numerous graduates carrying qualifications that do not match the existing job requirements (HSRC, 2023). The current educational supply also lacks the necessary qualities sought by employers. Even though numerous demand-side economic strategies have been suggested and implemented, none of them seem to have had any discernible effect on the alarmingly high rate of unemployment. The gap between labour market demand and available educational opportunities remains a problem.

In June 2023, the Premier of Gauteng in South Africa launched an initiative aimed at addressing the pressing issue of unemployment in the province. It has been reported that 1.2 million people applied for just 8,000 positions (The Citizen, 2023). This starkly highlights the persistent and deep unemployment challenges faced by the youth in the country. Furthermore, the magnitude of the demand underscores the urgent need for effective strategies and comprehensive interventions to address this pressing socioeconomic issue. The current socio-economic landscape in South Africa presents a pressing concern, with a population of 60 million (Country meters, 2023) and a significant proportion (29.6 million) heavily reliant on social grants (Daily Investor, 2023). Of particular concern is the alarming trend observed in 2023, where out of the 13.5 million new social grant applications, a mere 716,000 were from tertiary graduates (Daily Maverick, 2023). This reality highlights the magnitude of the challenge faced by the country as it grapples with a high dependency ratio and an increasing number of unemployed individuals relative to the employed population. Each job loss holds substantial implications for society at large, exacerbating the already profound socio-economic disparities and hindering opportunities for sustainable growth and development.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Unemployment: A state where people of working age are actively seeking work but cannot find it. Economic downturns, a lack of suitable employment opportunities, and a mismatch between the skills of job seekers and the requirements of vacant positions are common causes of unemployment.

Entrepreneurial Education: Entrepreneurship education refers to a structured approach to teaching and training individuals who are interested in making a positive impact on society through entrepreneurship. It involves providing knowledge, skills, and guidance to aspiring entrepreneurs with the goal of creating awareness about entrepreneurship, helping them establish their own businesses, and supporting the growth of small enterprises.

Higher Education: This refers to education post matric including certificates, and/or degrees offered at institutions such as universities, colleges and vocational-technical schools.

Township Economy: Townships are historically designated areas in South Africa that are home to people from historically disadvantaged backgrounds, and the phrase “township economy” refers to the economic activities and businesses that operate within townships.

Student Empowerment: Education that empowers its students to take responsibility for their own learning, to make deliberate choices, and to be full participants in their own education.

South Africa: This can be defined as a diverse and multifaceted country located at the very bottom and South of Africa.

Creative Disruption: Pertains to the reimagining of educational practises, curricula, and models to effectively meet the evolving needs and expectations of students and society.

Innovation: Innovation can be defined as the process of developing and introducing something new with the intention of bringing about significant improvement, development, or change.

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