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Original language: German
17 percent of young people in Europe are unemployed. The aim of the Erasmus+ project “Enterprise+ – Innovative Potential meets Experience” was to encourage and develop their entrepreneurial spirit.
Picture: © Katja Marquard
Dr. Martin Kröll, head of the Institute for Work Science at the Ruhr University in Bochum, is always looking for good ideas. He identifies effective tools and strategies for the labour market in Germany which he thinks may be worth applying in other European countries. “For this purpose, we are always looking for interesting concepts that have already proven their worth,” the innovation researcher explains. Hans-Dieter Hiedels, on the other hand, knows how to put good ideas into practice successfully and on a long-term basis. He managed a medium-sized company that manufactures paint for professional use. The quality management that Hiedels introduced in this company received the North-Rhine Westphalian Quality Award.
Together, the two men ran the “Enterprise+ – Innovative Potential meets Experience” project, with Dr. Martin Kröll as the head of the project and Hans-Dieter Hiedels as a consultant. The project was aimed at young job seekers in European partner countries and combined various instruments that had already been successfully tested in Germany. For example, the project combined approaches developed in the project “losleger” for analysing students’ potential with entrepreneurship workshops which built on the “German Entrepreneur Award for Students” (“Deutscher Gründerpreis für Schüler”). Dr. Martin Kröll stresses that they wished to “not merely identify, but also strengthen young people’s potential”. Experienced former managers from the world of business also participated in the workshops as mentors. For this aspect of the project, Dr. Martin Kröll and his team were able to call on both Hans-Dieter Hiedels’ experience and that of the partnering association “Old Helps Young” (“Alt hilft Jung”). The association is made up of more than 80 senior citizens who worked in business and who now advise young entrepreneurs and self-employed people on a voluntary basis.
The team from Germany worked with institutions from Bulgaria, Lithuania, Greece, Spain and Hungary. Together they adapted the German concepts to local conditions and put them into practice. “Enterprise+” was funded as a strategic partnership of the EU’s Erasmus+ programme in the area of vocational education and training.
Entrepreneurial qualities also benefit job seekers
For the head of the project Dr. Martin Kröll, the main message that “Enterprise+” succeeded in communicating to young people was: “Become your own project!” “See what you’re good at, think about what you’d like to do, look at what’s possible, take action,” is how he describes the approach taken to boosting the young participants’ own initiative. Hans-Dieter Hiedels is also certain that “persistence, creativity and flexibility” are key entrepreneurial attributes. However, he also knows that entrepreneurs can only succeed when a business idea is backed up by sound economic knowledge. How do I carry out a proper market and competitor analysis? What does a budget plan look like? Admittedly, only a small number of participants could realistically contemplate a future as an entrepreneur at the end of the workshops. But even for those who did not start a company, Hans-Dieter Hiedels emphasises that gaining “knowledge about economic structures also makes them more interesting to companies as employees”.
Dr. Martin Kröll and Hans-Dieter Hiedels knew in advance that exporting good ideas from Germany to other European countries can only work well if they are adapted to the respective market. For this reason, multipliers were recruited and trained in partner countries to assist in implementing the projects. They began by working with organisers at various institutions, including career advisors at chambers of industry and commerce, employment agencies and institutes of higher education. These, in turn, helped the team from Germany to recruit and train 50 talent scouts who monitored the analysis of participants’ potential and 50 mentors for the entrepreneurship workshops. Particular consideration was given to cultural context when implementing the project. “In Bulgaria, for example, the idea of an entrepreneur carries negative associations dating back to the Communist era and is often associated with the idea of a person who cannot be trusted,” explains Dr. Martin Kröll. “It was important for us to emphasise that an entrepreneur also has social responsibilities.”
In their evaluation of the project, the young participants emphasised how the direct feedback in the workshops benefited their learning and development. Above all, the opportunity to work together with older mentors was viewed positively in all countries. Mr. Martin Kröll compares it to the relationship between grandchildren and grandparents, from whom grandchildren “are more willing to accept advice than from their parents.”
Dr. Martin Kröll and Hans-Dieter Hiedels have continued to work together since the project ended, convinced that combining innovative scientific ideas with solid business experience remains a good idea.