Senior Economist, OECD Centre for Entrepreneurship, SMEs, Regions and Cities
Technological progress is accelerating. For instance, ChatGPT recently launched four new releases in just four months. Governments and businesses must rethink training and entrepreneurship education to keep pace.
When I first visited ECOLE 42, I noticed a student dressed up in a rainbow unicorn costume while coding. My curiosity was piqued. I asked the young entrepreneur what he was doing at this tuition-free private school. It turns out he was in the ‘swimming pool’ trying to get admitted to what is now one of the most important sources of tech talent in France and has been replicated in Canada, Colombia, Malaysia and Spain.
Fostering entrepreneurial skills fit for the future
ECOLE 42 selects candidates mostly based on their transversal skills. It’s not a requirement to know code. Being passionate, creative, resilient and accountable is what matters. The curriculum looks like a game of role-play in which students work together to solve challenges, learning from each other in the process. At ECOLE 42, there are no formal lessons or teachers. To weather the three-year programme, one needs a flair for problem-solving, teamwork and ‘learning by doing’ in the digital arena. These are precisely the skills needed to boost innovation and entrepreneurship.
On average, more than 10% of the
workforce aged 16–65 lack basic skills.
A worrying skills landscape is emerging
Chris Miller writes in ‘Chip War’ (2022): “Silicon Valley wouldn’t exist without the entrepreneurs who built it.” But skills gaps, including in digital technologies, are still staggeringly high in OECD countries. On average, more than 10% of the workforce aged 16–65 lack basic skills. Even in the United States and South Korea — countries with a strong digital backbone — only 25% have a ‘well-rounded skill set.’
Data suggests that there are too few opportunities to develop these transversal skills. While elite students often succeed in competitive selection processes or pay high tuition fees to higher education institutions using innovative learning styles and new technologies, others — particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds — risk getting frozen out of the future.
Skills for all, no matter what you wear
The time is ripe for governments and businesses to develop radical, new approaches to education and training systems that embed entrepreneurial and digital skills throughout the curriculum. We must give young people the skills to succeed.
The new OECD network called Entrepreneurship Education Collaboration and Engagement (EECOLE) supports the piloting and assessment of new practices. It is a small step but could give the new skills mix the boost it needs.