Monday, November 9, 2009

Entrepreneurship Revisited

After more than 100 posts on this blog, I’m finding myself revisiting previous posts with a new perspective. A little over a year ago, I wrote a post about how interesting it might be if the Mohawk Valley region branded itself around Education, Environment and Entrepreneurship in similar fashion to Saratoga Springs with their History, Health and Horses theme. I received a few interesting responses on that post, some offering their own ideas and others picking up on the importance of entrepreneurship.

Along those same lines, I had a very interesting conversation recently with a lifelong Mohawk Valley resident and very successful businessman. We talked about the state of the economy and the fundamental shifts at work with regard to manufacturing and globalization – the cost of doing business and producing goods in New York State versus, say, China. I shared that this is the first time in my career where I find it very difficult to identify exactly what new programs we need to develop, because it’s hard to see where the jobs are going to come from – other than everyone hanging their hats on the new “green economy.” I referenced the “Shift Happens/Did You Know” video that I included in one of my earliest blog posts. My favorite component of that video speaks volumes to what we’re up against – “We are currently preparing students for jobs that don’t yet exist…using technologies that haven’t been invented…in order to solve problems we don’t even know are problems yet!”

It got me thinking again about the importance of entrepreneurship. Wouldn’t it be better to have ten small businesses that grow to 100 employees versus having a single employer, likely not rooted in this area, with 1,000 employees – that could come and go and at any time? Then the challenges with teaching entrepreneurship came to mind – budding entrepreneurs often don’t want to spend time sitting in classrooms while we as educators, by our nature, wrestle with the need to be more entrepreneurial in one of the most secure professions available.

My latest thinking on this is that perhaps entrepreneurship is a future component of general education. I haven’t seen it anywhere else, but we talk about new transferable skills like problem solving, critical thinking, human relations and creativity…perhaps all of these can converge into the notion of entrepreneurial spirit. Manufacturing peaked in the U.S. in 1979 and will never be what it was. I’m increasingly of the belief that entrepreneurship is what will drive the new economy – once we know what that looks like. All signs point to the fact that the new economy is likely years away, so MVCC may as well begin preparing for it today by thinking about these notions. If we can’t identify what the jobs of the future will be, why don’t we start by training people to develop their ideas along with their plans and practices to make their businesses and organizations better by creating those jobs that don’t yet exist and invent those technologies and processes that haven’t been invented yet through entrepreneurial skills and spirit that all of us need? If you have any thoughts on this, please contact me at presblog@mvcc.edu.