In this ever-changing global economy, one needs to be proactive, prepared and motivated enough to enter the workforce and engineers need to direct the whole project and be able to collaborate efficiently as leader and manager.
--By Krishna Khanal
Nepal has travelled a long way towards the much awaited peace and political stability and has now been developing, though ploddingly, in every sector. However, we lack the measures to parallel the development with most of the robust economies of the world. One of the radical changes that need to be brought is in the mind-set about the role of entrepreneurship in higher education and in instilling it in the minds of the subject about its importance in the development of the country, even though, entrepreneurship as a subject and practice, is limited to business schools.
The traditional school of thought has always been with the notion that “entrepreneurs are born, not made”. The modern observation has been that, some entrepreneurs may be born but a large number of them can be educated, trained, and made. Learning by trial and error method is altogether ruled out. It is necessary to encourage more people to take up this field, to help them to equip themselves with training which helps them stand out against the changing marketing scenarios and be prepared enough to lead the entire organization. Graduates from technical colleges need to be trained well ahead of time to make them motivated. In this ever-changing global economy, one needs to be proactive, prepared and motivated enough to enter the workforce and engineers need to direct the whole project and be able to collaborate efficiently as leader and manager. Apart from their technical and analytical expertise, they need to be flexible, resilient, creative, empathetic, and have the ability to recognize and seize opportunities. All of these skills can and should be taught to engineers as part of their formal education. It is thus the responsibility of engineering educators to instil these qualities in students to enable them to be more innovative and entrepreneurial.
One of the pressing problem that is hard-hitting the development of the country is the educated unemployment. Technical graduates opt to waste their valuable 1-2 years trying for a government job. Instead they could make an effort to get job themselves and to others by starting their own businesses. They either prefer to do government job or fly abroad for advanced degrees and lucrative career prospects. Thus training and education of entrepreneurship in engineering college is of paramount importance.
It is no longer enough to come out of school with a purely technical education; engineers need to be entrepreneurial in order to understand and contribute in the context of market and business pressures. For engineers who start companies soon after graduation, entrepreneurship education gives them solid experience in product design and development, prototyping, technology trends, and market analysis. These skills are just as relevant for success in established enterprises as they are in startups; students with entrepreneurial training who join established firms are better prepared to become effective team members and managers and can better support their employers as innovators.
Entrepreneurship education teaches engineering students in all disciplines the knowledge, tools, and attitudes that are required to identify opportunities and bring them to life. Students who take part in entrepreneurship programs as undergraduates gain insights not available from traditional engineering education, such as understanding and designing for end users (“empathy”), working in and managing interdisciplinary teams, communicating effectively, thinking critically, understanding business basics, and solving open-ended problems.
In most of the developed countries, entrepreneurship is no longer confined to business schools. In fact, it is one of the fastest growing subjects in undergraduate education overall, with formal programs such as majors, minors, and certificates quadrupling in last three decades. However, in the context of Nepal, as of now, I have never heard of some entrepreneurship syllabus or initiative being invested in technical colleges of Nepal. Entrepreneurship as a major subject might not be as essential to be included in the curriculum per se. But instilling the foundation and importance in engineering colleges is of utmost priority.
And interest in entrepreneurship extends beyond higher education. In recent decades, technology entrepreneurs have become the movers and shakers of the world, and the entrepreneurial process has been embraced as a key element of the country’s future success and global leadership. However, we are in the developing state and imitational entrepreneurship might also be the most tempting of all. We are developing and we need the help and technology that we lack. Agricultural entrepreneurship is what that has the most reachable and lucrative prospect. Hydropower is the other area where we have the most promising future and abundant resources to harness a good deal of electricity.
Unlike other changes to the engineering curriculum that have been implemented with little student input, there is substantial and growing student demand for entrepreneurship education. It may be that the perception of their students’ needs and challenges puts entrepreneurship low on the priority list of learning objectives. Furthermore, the faculty perceptions about overcrowded engineering curriculum, and their belief that faculty peers and administrators are unsupportive of including entrepreneurial learning objectives in engineering education, contribute to making these objectives a low priority for engineering undergraduate programs.
The integration of entrepreneurship and innovation in engineering education will require a shift in thinking and willingness on the part of faculty to participate in, or at least accept changes in, the engineering curriculum. Recent experiences in introducing new approaches to engineering education are a good indicator of the challenges and a guide to which approaches will be effective.
It is right time to invest in the economy, step out of the box and to try some bold initiatives.
The writer teaches business ethics and entrepreneurship at the King's college, Kathmandu.