The project “Entrepreneurship Education – Your Way to be a Responsible Leader!” is in agreement with the study run by the CE Final report of the Expert Group of the European Commission, September 2005, which states, “Previous joint projects between the Commission and experts appointed by national governments highlighted activities where students run a mini-company at school as an effective methodology for spreading entrepreneurial mindsets, as it is based on learning through direct experience of entrepreneurship.” EU schools have a responsibility to offer education that is relevant, with the way in which such education is provided reflecting real life needs. Furthermore, modern business life is becoming increasingly international and digital, and this is something that schools need to understand and develop further. This project offered participating schools great possibilities for developing our teaching methods and preparing a foundation for more extensive cooperation among all involved stakeholders. The project’s topics encompass entrepreneurship, ICT, Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), cultural awareness, international communication, trade, personal development, and leadership. The project’s goal was to develop differing international mini student companies within Europe’s economic surroundings as a pedagogical method that supports young people to develop their own leadership skills with a focus on ICT and CSR. Working on this project has made it possible for students to acquire skills and competences that will contribute to their preparation for future challenges. Entrepreneurial and leadership skills will be key competences in a future labour market and these skills are essential for establishing new business and enterprises. Jobs of the future have yet to be created and, therefore, the acquisition of entrepreneurial skills is important for students. This experience provided students with the opportunity to know people and cultures from other European countries and understand how to cooperate on a number of issues in working towards common goals. The project’s objectives were to develop students' leadership skills; improve their ICT skills in an entrepreneurial field; collaborate with partners from different cultural backgrounds; increase students' awareness about the common European business environment; promote the development, testing and/or implementation of innovative practices in the field of education, training, and youth; improve foreign language skills through content integrated language learning (CLIL); develop a sustainable new school network; develop innovative approaches to teaching by providing more attractive education and training programmes; use of participatory approaches and ICT-based methodologies; and strengthen cooperation among organisations with a view of establishing the exchange of good practices within the European School Network. The project’s main activity was to allow regular students to experience the process of starting a new business and creating a mini European student company – from its initial stage of generating an innovative business idea, to managing its implementation and the development of all its enterprise functional areas (marketing, international business law, business ethics, and finance). The project’s most relevant activities consisted of transnational students business meetings; business area reports; participation in international students’ mini companies trading fairs; meetings with experts in different business-related fields; preparation of entrepreneurial teaching material; the annual Entrepreneurship Day; and, dissemination of the project’s information and results via Internet platforms such as eTwinning and EwB, as well as presentation of student experiences on European and international conferences for education. Moreover, we integrated trends of the start-up-community in our daily project-related undertakings such as the business canvas modelling or common good balance for young entrepreneurs. Through different workshops with experts and/or university lecturers, we had the great opportunity of facilitating a transfer between the schools’ educational programme and the scientific community. As for the project’s long-term benefits, we summarise the following general outcomes from our partnership: innovative approaches to teaching through the provision of more attractive education and training ICT programmes; use of participatory approaches and ICT-based methodologies; a more modern, dynamic, committed, and professional environment within the organisation; readiness to integrate good practices and new methods into daily activities; an open attitude to synergies with organisations that are active in different fields or in other socioeconomic sectors; increased capacity and professionalism to work at the EU level; reinforced cooperation with partners from other countries; other fields of education; training; and, youth and/or other socioeconomic sectors.
The strengthening of the 'Entrepreneurial Spirit' focused primarily on students regardless of the school they attended. However, in addition to this primary target group, it is primarily representatives of the upper secondary level (educators) who dealt with the topic of 'Entrepreneurship Education.' It was also precisely these educators who accompanied students as they qualified for their everyday entrepreneurship/professional lives, and who arouse their often (unknown) interest or entrepreneurial spirit. The tertiary target group, which represented an important network in this project, included a wide variety of founder organisations, innovation hubs, start-up communities, and well-known companies, that, with their knowledge transfer during active exchange and cooperation, provide important impulses and experiences to tomorrow’s 'founding generation.' The fact that this 3-year Erasmus+ partnership has had a lasting effect on students’ entrepreneurial spirit was reflected by the significant increase in interest in the topic of entrepreneurship and the multiple implementations of the concept of European mini companies across Europe. But other examples also illustrate how much this project had influenced young people: immediately after finishing school, project participants took the step into self-employment. In personal conversations, participants repeated several times how much they had been inspired by their direct exchange experiences with other young entrepreneurs from across Europe, the enthusiasm seen in their international environment, and how they were motivated to implement their vision of their own companies in Europe in the areas of real estate, tourism, and
trade. They appreciated the experience they had gained during the European mini company and judged it to be the starting point of their “entrepreneurial career,” which provided valuable assistance with the everyday problems that have to be mastered in the world of entrepreneurship. At the beginning of this Erasmus+ project, project partners highly agreed on the importance of disseminating the project’s experiences and achieved results, as they could be used as a guide and as a source of inspiration for other initiatives in the field of entrepreneurship education – whether in advanced teacher training, at national/international entrepreneurship networking opportunities, or JA conferences and entrepreneurship summits. Fortunately, the experiences as well as the project were presented several times to a national/international audience at numerous events – during the duration of the project, as well as long after the project’s completion. Through personal exchange with colleagues from different countries, we know that our ideas, materials, and experiences were being actively used in other parts of Europe to take “Entrepreneurship Education" to the next level – the European Entrepreneurship Education. In Austria in particular, the Entrepreneurship Day is already a fixed point in the upper secondary level calendar. In Salzburg, more than 1500 young people from various school areas (AHS, HAK, HTL, HUM, vocational schools) in various regions of the federal state have visited the Entrepreneurship Day and, in many cases, this awakened the “entrepreneurial spirit.” There were a total of 350 students who were involved in the project, including in the various dissemination activities carried out during the project’s implementation. There were also a total of 450 educators who were involved in dissemination events across Europe, with 100 schools and 15 universities/technological colleges having participated in the project and in its dissemination events. Lastly, the number of companies, funding companies, and organisations involved totalled 40. During the Erasmus+ programme, activities focused on AUT, SWE, LIT, ITA, and ESP. Fortunately, these activities could be distributed to other parts of Europe after the end of the project through the use of digital media. This was made possible due to the project’s high media presence and the high level of commitment shown by participating teachers.
Mini companies have been active in the European scene for a long time. Particularly with the partial result seen with "Boxellence Europe," which was the first time a joint European mini company was created. This undertaking not only saw the activation of knowledge transfer, but together with the network of the 4 schools from AUT, SWE, LIT, and ITA, the development of a product idea that was successfully implemented. The highlights of this intensive cooperation was certainly the joint appearance at the Junior Achievement Marketplace Lithuania 2017, as well as the numerous awards for this sustainable, European cooperation project from various European organisations. It should be noted that different regulations within participating countries (e.g. curricula, junior achievements) complicated the project’s implementation. Furthermore, cooperating with "corporate partners" digitally and acting together was itself a new experience for young people. The project allowed them to develop their skills in intercultural cooperation – both economically and personally, and it was precisely these challenges that brought lasting success. Supervisory teachers acted as coaches and supported executing company members in the successful development of their company. This was supplemented by technical inputs in the areas of business regulations, business canvas modelling, and marketing, as well as personal (European) exchange with experts. Appropriate teaching materials and concepts were developed and distributed in exchange with colleagues. These experiences from a student's perspective as well as in the field of entrepreneurship education have been and will be passed on to an interested audience throughout Europe at numerous events of the Junior Achievement Network, teacher training, and specialist conferences. As a result, many colleagues from different countries could also be motivated to start the "European Mini Company Adventure." The success of the "European Entrepreneurship Day" was evidenced by the joint "European Entrepreneurship Day," which was carried out during the mobility to Austria in autumn 2016 in cooperation with the Gründerservice Salzburg/“startup service” from the Salzburg Chamber of Commerce. Young people talked to experts about topics such as crowd funding, funding personalities, funding opportunities, and family businesses. This event format was very popular with students, teachers, and partner organisations, and has since taken place several times a year across all school types (HAK, HBLA, HTL, AHS, and vocational schools), where more than 1500 young people from the state of Salzburg alone have participated. Exemplary excerpts of the project’s activities include information events for students, parents, teachers, and school partners about the project, as well as cross-border coordination of annual material distributions and learning methods; the implementation of the entrepreneurship teaching principle "Mini Company" in interdisciplinary teaching (business training, entrepreneurship and management, digital business, accounting, business administration, natural sciences, German, English, second living foreign language, etc.); the registration of mini companies on junior.cc and EWB (Enterprise Without Borders) as well as the holding of workshops with external speakers; workshops in cooperation with the start-up service of WKS Salzburg (the Salzburg Chamber of Commerce), foreign trade offices, and the EU office in Salzburg; the promotion of IT skills in Photoshop, video shooting, radio workshops, and app development through workshops with various partners; the drafting of business plans in German and English; participation in national and international mini company and business plan competitions, as well as feedback from the jury on market opportunities (the exchange of educational concepts at parallel educational workshops); the creation of commercials and their corresponding scripts, digital image processing, implementation, and distribution on YouTube; cooperation with regional companies and authorities for the marketing of business ideas and exchange of experience in sales; the awarding of the "Entrepreneurship School - Level Advanced" certificate to the BHAK/BHAS Hallein (eeesi - BMBWF); elaboration and creation of legal provisions for business start-ups in a European context (through the involvement of external service points); the development of a multilingual app for one’s own business idea; and, presentation of the project’s results at booths/workshops/lectures, as well as opportunities for modern, future-oriented education with regard to entrepreneurship education at the Global Entrepreneurship Congress in Milan (2015), at the Entrepreneurship Summit in Vienna (2015, 2016, 2017, 2019), the European ESP Conference in Vienna (2016), and the Kitzbühel Summer University (2015,2016, 2018).
Naturally, for such an innovative and complex project to be implemented, an appropriate school setting was required. In addition to the clear positioning of the entire school with regard to opening to a European school community, an openness to the future topic of "Entrepreneurship Education," and an innovative spirit for new processes and tools in everyday teaching (and the critical reflection of previous and current processes), it was also indispensable that the aspects of motivation, initiative, and team spirit were combined. All of this was rendered more exciting when the school, as well as partner institutions throughout Europe (including various universities, technical colleges, start-up communities, and start-up centres) were involved. This required a clear commitment to the project and project partners’ objectives and expectations, which required a high level of discourse skills. All of this became even more challenging when the work was carried out in daily/weekly digital network meetings, due to linguistic challenges and new ICT skills (e.g. app programming, video editing, images, sound recordings, etc.). This not only required enormous commitment from the students, but also from participating teachers. Although there was substantial workload during the project’s application, we understood that such immense innovation could actively shape daily school life, and reflect that innovation has a sustainable and long-lasting perspective for the upcoming generation of workers and employees. This motivated and promoted the spirit that existed across all partner institutions – as well as during the project’s lifetime and beyond. Proven awareness raising, the perception of the entrepreneurial spirit, higher qualifications on the job market, increased motivation in the learning of foreign languages, and EU-wide awareness were some of the positive aspects enjoyed by the project’s participants. In addition to specialist knowledge in the area of start-up management, participants were also acquainted with the development/expansion of ICT skills and partners’ social skills through the breakdown of stereotypes and the ability to address problems, conflict management, and intercultural skills in everyday digital business. By participating in this project as well as through the intense examination of the topic of "entrepreneurship/start-up," all students were able to upgrade their education levels. In addition, the project served as basis for further development in terms of modern, future-oriented school education and securing of the school’s location (including the teaching staff). Lastly, our school served as a role model for many other regional schools that were actively practicing entrepreneurship.
Not only did participating students gain valuable experience during the school partnership, but the entire educational team was also given the opportunity to incorporate new aspects into their educational work. All members were actively involved in all of the programmes processes, with valuable educational experience gained in interdisciplinary and European project teaching, which is of essential importance for the future. The intense collaboration with colleagues from all over Europe resulted in an important exchange of experiences. In addition to discussions on various school systems and curriculum content, specific training measures were also carried out on current topics relating to the areas of start-up, entrepreneurship, ICT, languages, and the EU. As there was intense professional exchange between colleagues, an increase in motivation and an increase in ICT and language skills were also observed among members of the teaching team. The partnership enabled participating teachers to expand their "European Awareness," make new friends in Europe, and practice new pedagogical methods – especially when working with large groups. Organising an Erasmus+ school partnership not only required the support and acceptance of senior management, but also that of the school’s administration and colleagues. The project’s innovative learning and teaching processes not only saw the participation of internal school partners, but also that of other educational organisations and external partners. Interested individuals became aware of the numerous media reports, the prizes awarded, and the results of the uniquely successful "Boxellence Europe" pilot project at both national and international events. The organisers of entrepreneurship meetings actively invited their colleagues to present the project’s results, which in turn motivated colleagues from other European schools to actively deal with the subject of "Entrepreneurship Education" in a wide variety of subjects, organise Entrepreneurship Days at their own schools, and implement the principle of the European ‘Mini Company.’ The entire project team was pleased with the positive feedback, especially from schools in the upper secondary level, as well as the appreciation as a "best practice example" by educational organisations. Even now, after the official ‘end’ of the project, these qualities can still be clearly seen among the teaching staff, where not only were many aspects added to their own educational “toolbox,” but the “entrepreneurial spirit” continues to live on. This can be seen from the fact that teachers either act entrepreneurially themselves, or through their active participation in events within the start-up community. This in turn brings important impulses to the school and enables pupils to experience practical contacts while they are still at school. This network also continues to be very active beyond Salzburg’s borders and represents an enormous personal as well as educational added value for everyone involved.
In addition to the respective schools, experiences and results garnered from the project have also had a direct influence on school locations and colleagues who actively integrate the principle of mini companies into their everyday teaching. Colleagues from upper secondary level from across Europe have already used mini companies in the past, but not within a European context. This pilot project enabled valuable experience and results to be gathered on how the various types of school (grammar schools and business schools) can implement this concept within a European context, and of how typical pitfalls can be avoided. This has motivated other colleagues to also cooperate within a European business context, with results, experiences, as well as "best practice examples" of Boxellence Europe having been (and continuing to be) presented at both the regional and national level at specialist group meetings, expert groups, advanced training events, junior achievement events, and entrepreneurship summits. In this regard, activities were supplemented by invitations to international events where one can meet colleagues from various European countries that actively deal with the topics of mini companies and entrepreneurship education. Examples of such international events was the presentation at the Global Entrepreneurship Congress in Milan, the Entrepreneurial School events, the ESP Conference, or the annual Entrepreneurship Summit in Vienna (under the patronage of the Global Entrepreneurship Network). As close contact was maintained with the various start-up organisations, companies, start-ups, JA agencies, as well as universities of applied sciences, they were also informed of the results that had been achieved during the project’s entire duration. Thanks to their insights into the project’s practice and science, valuable experience had been gained, with new trends integrated into the project. This topic is also exciting for the scientific community, which is why research work in this area is repeatedly carried out in cooperation (or specific reference made) with the school sector. Due to active dissemination within the European School Network, effects that went far beyond the project could be determined and so tools, methodological approaches, and materials that had been developed during the project are now being used in various parts of Europe. Of particular note was the incorporation of such materials during distance learning, where one can bring in the “spirit of European entrepreneurship” into one's own classroom or office despite physical distances. In sum, entrepreneurship at the upper secondary level with the integration of a European dimension in the form of a new, innovative teaching design is now an indispensable component of an innovative, future-oriented pedagogy.
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- VET schools
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IES San Mateo
Kauno Saulės gimnazija
Thorengruppen AB Thorén Business School Gävle