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Regarded as one of the solutions to the employment crisis that young people are faced with, entrepreneurship and initiative are promoted by public decision-makers via a range of actions including programmes implemented at educational institutions and universities. Such actions, carried out to encourage entrepreneurship, are not limited to the single goal of creating activities, but also aim to help young people acquire skills connected with this particular economic sector.
Over the last ten years, public support for business creation and the entrepreneurial spirit have been developed at all territorial levels: regions, municipalities and intermunicipalities alike.
The determination to develop young people’s entrepreneurial spirit is both national and international, first of all in the context of the education and training 2020 strategy, which defines eight key skills, including “the spirit of initiative and enterprise”, described as “the ability to turn ideas into action: the ability to create, innovate, take risks, and programme and manage projects in order to achieve goals”, and finally the “Entrepreneurship 2020 Action Plan: Reigniting the entrepreneurial spirit in Europe” also recommended by the European Commission in 2013.
Encouragement of entrepreneurial skills is expressed by a whole range of public initiatives, including setting up experiments in the context of calls for proposals supported by the FEJ –Youth Experimentation Fund (See Chapter 1), which has funded and evaluated experiments seeking to renew pedagogical approaches to raising awareness of entrepreneurship among young people and accompanying their entrepreneurial initiatives. The FEJ has measured the effects of providing young people with assistance in company creation by evaluating two schemes: “Créajeunes” and “Groupements de créateurs”.
Teaching of entrepreneurship at university level has been progressing over the last few years, in particular with creation of PEPITEs – Student centres for innovation, transfer and entrepreneurship (Pôles Etudiants pour l’Innovation, le Transfert et l’Entrepreneuriat), which not only provide students with entrepreneurial paths in higher education but also help improve recognition and accompaniment of projects promoted by students and young graduates. PEPITEs, which were introduced by the Ministry of Higher Education and Research _MESR), aim to universalise dissemination of a culture of entrepreneurship and innovation among young people in higher education, and foster commitment to entrepreneurial action by students and young graduates interested in creating businesses.
PEPITEs enable young graduates wishing to set up their own businesses to acquire student entrepreneur status (statut d'étudiant entrepreneur). To do so, they must prepare the diplôme d'étudiant entrepreneur (D2E – student entrepreneur diploma), which confers student status upon them along with the social protection that goes with it.
The PEPITES have a reference document for skills that is the result of a working group that includes the Conference of University Presidents (CPU), the General Directorate for Higher Education and Professional Integration of the Ministry of Higher Education and Research (MESR), the MEDEF network of businesses in France and Agence France Entrepreneur.
There are more than 30 student employment centres (PEPITES) in France.
The Ministry in charge of education has also launched a number of entrepreneurial skills development initiatives in secondary schools, and has set up cooperation actions with its professional partners in the context of “Entrepreneurial spirit” partnerships. In addition, various National Education programmes and reference frameworks incorporate the entrepreneurial spirit and company creation. This is particularly the case for vocational training and apprenticeship specialities and diplomas: in vocational lycées, the multidisciplinary vocational project is a lever for entrepreneurial spirit. It consists of total or partial creation of a product or service and aims to develop initiative, creativity and assumption of responsibilities within a team.
Every year for the last 10 years, the Ministry of National Education and the MEDEF have organised a School-Business Week (Semaine école-entreprise) in all local education authority areas, with pupils visiting companies, getting to know their environments and how they operate, and holding debates.
Mini-enterprise creation projects also introduce lower and upper secondary students to technological and vocational paths to company creation. They are set up in the context of a partnership between the Minister of National Education and the “Entreprendre pour apprendre-France” (Entrepreneurship as a way of learning – France) association, and bring together volunteer pupils under the supervision of a teacher and professional advisor from the “Entreprendre pour apprendre-France” association. They develop a product or service to be marketed. A championship rewards the best European, national and local education authority area Mini-enterprise projects.
The social modernisation law of 2002 instituted VAE - accreditation of prior work experience (Validation des acquis de l’expérience ), enabling recognition and accreditation of informal and non-formal learning outcomes as counting totally or partly towards the obtainment of a certification listed in the RNCP – National Directory of Professional Certifications. Such certifications are the same and have the same value as if they had been obtained through a formal learning path.
Various experiments have been carried out, including the “experimental competences booklet” (livret de compétences expérimentales) following the cross-ministerial circular 2009-192 du 28-12-2009 which launched a call for proposals among lower and upper secondary schools and apprentice training centres, in order to test out an “experimental skills booklet” differing from its predecessors because it included skills acquired outside school.
In addition, a number of universities have instituted portefeuilles de compétences (skills portfolios: see 3.2), which can also help young French citizens to complete the Youthpass certificate they may wish to obtain.
The Agence France Entrepreneur (AFE) has introduced a range of tools, including courses on raising awareness of entrepreneurship intended for teachers, in particular the OPPE – Observatory of pedagogical practices in entrepreneurship (observatoire des pratiques pédagogiques en entrepreneuriat). Set up by the public authorities in April 2001, the OPPE initially met a need for knowledge of entrepreneurial schemes incorporated into the secondary and higher education system. These days, it acts as a “tool for pooling, promotion and discussion of methods of teaching entrepreneurship, at the service of education institutions, teachers, students and networks accompanying business creation”. Agence France Entrepreneur also makes downloadable teaching aids available free of charge.
None of these courses on the entrepreneurial spirit or dedicated tools are compulsory components of training programmes for teachers and facilitators; they are all the result of spontaneous initiatives.