“Young people are not trained enough for entrepreneurship in France”

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“Young people are not trained enough for entrepreneurship in France”

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Article originally published November 18, 2021

45% of French students would one day consider setting up or acquiring a business, according to a study conducted by Opinionway in 2019. However, Mélanie Sueur Sy, CEO of Enactus France, an NGO whose mission is to develop the entrepreneurial spirit of young people in impactful sectors, deplores the lack of education in entrepreneurial culture in France. She is back for Folly on the situation of social entrepreneurship among young people in France and the commitments made by his association.

Are young people sufficiently trained in entrepreneurial skills and culture in France today?

Melanie Sueur Sy : It is clear that entrepreneurship education is much weaker in France than in other countries among the young audience. Students still know very little about this path, which is rarely talked about, except in business schools. A barometer produced by Convergences measures in particular the knowledge of impact entrepreneurship, and unfortunately it is still marginal. However, this branch represents 10% of GDP and as many avenues for the future in which young people can invest. There is a weak point in France on this: everyone praises impact entrepreneurship, but nothing is done to concretely inculcate the skills that this implies. There is a lot of work to be done to integrate this brick into national education, since today it is associations like ours that take on this responsibility.

What does Enactus offer concretely to encourage young people to discover this path and get started?

Since 2002 we have been supporting students from all walks of life, from the desire to act to the realization of a project. We equip young people by providing them with the traditional resources necessary to start, on topics as diverse as the study of needs, prototyping, the design of an economic model and the methods of creativity. It is imperative because we are talking to targets for which everything is new. We also run face-to-face seminars, webinars and sessions with entrepreneurs who volunteer to work with students on their projects, provide them with another professional perspective, help them ask the right questions, step back and move forward. Our pedagogy is experiential, we want to help put young people into action at every stage, seminar or meeting. They must then present the deliverables, pass “packages” to the next sessions and really carry out their project.

You accompany students, but now you will also address high school students. Do you think it is important to reach younger and younger targets?

Our historical center of activity touches students from all walks of life. But it is important to plant a seed of the desire to undertake as soon as possible. Since 2014 we have also been looking for high school students, especially in professional paths and priority areas of the city. Often these young people find themselves there for a difficult orientation, because unfortunately these courses are still too often perceived as transversal, which we integrate by default … These are good places to go and help these young people to bring out development projects. companies with impact! So we go to class and, with the teachers, we focus on what turns or mobilizes young people, to inspire them and push them to get involved in the project, putting themselves in the shoes of a social entrepreneur.

They won’t all become entrepreneurs, or at least not right away, but these sessions allow them to develop soft skills that we don’t learn enough in school, such as teamwork, listening and cooperation. . These strategies and the “project” mode work particularly well on less academic profiles, for whom very top-down theoretical courses on marketing or sales presentation do not work. We would also like to speak with college students.

While there is still a lot to do to instill entrepreneurial skills, do you still notice that this generation has a sensitivity for impactful, social economy and solidarity projects?

The search for meaning in work is increasingly marked among the new generations. Directing them towards social and impact entrepreneurship responds to this search for meaning: what can I bring to my level in my neighborhood, in my city? There is a clash of generations on the issue: parents often push young people to follow reassuring paths, and are instead pushed towards professions that make sense to transform social models.

Some young people who pass by Enactus will end up working for large traditional groups or companies, but we will have helped to cultivate their social and environmental sensitivity. They can then lobby their companies to drive change where they work. This can also go through entrepreneurship. We want to show that action can be anywhere.

Can you give us an example of a startup made up of young people who have passed through Enactus France?

PimpUp is last year’s winning project. These are two students from Montpellier who, returning from their studies in the United States where they got used to consuming anti-waste food baskets, could not find this offer in their hometown. They then started their business, which consists of buying ugly fruit and vegetables at low cost, automatically rejected by the producer, to resell them in the form of subscription waste baskets. This project has an evident environmental impact, but also a social one, since the products are ultimately less expensive for the consumer, and this therefore responds to a real need to eat healthy products with reduced budgets. The year before we also supported the Zack Glasses project, which proposes circular economy circuits for eyewear.

What are the next goals that your association has set itself for the next five years?

Last year, we reached 2,000 high school students and 1,000 college students. The goal is to have an impact of four to five times more young people per year by 2025. As for the high school goal, the idea is also to automate awareness raising as much as possible by directly training teachers in the animation of these courses to multiply the number of beneficiaries. An association cannot be present everywhere, for all high school and university students … Entrepreneurship and impact must integrate educational practices to instill it in young people, have a systemic impact and for this model to become sustainable.

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