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Sweden’s current national strategy for the development of entrepreneurship competence and an entrepreneurial mind-set among young people, 'Strategy for Entrepreneurship in Education and Training' (Strategi för entreprenörskap inom utbildningsområdet), was adopted in 2009.
The definition used in the strategy on what entrepreneurship may involve is described as follows:
‘Entrepreneurship is about developing new ideas and to translate these ideas into something that creates value. The value can be created in companies, public organizations and associations’.
According to the strategy, when it comes to education, entrepreneurship may involve specific skills required to start and run a business, such as business administration and business planning. Entrepreneurship education can also include more general skills that are useful even outside the business world, such as project management and risk management. Educating entrepreneurs also means inspiring to creativity and willingness to take responsibility for reaching a goal.
In upper secondary and post-secondary education, it is reasonable to have an increased emphasis on the specific knowledge and skills needed to start and run a business. At university level, entrepreneurship education may involve both theoretical and practical studies of the whole process: from assessing the commercial viability of an idea to establishing a company in the market. Higher education in entrepreneurship may also, more generally, prepare students for work with change processes in large and small organisations; in the private, as well as the public sector.
Actions taken by the Government:
- The Swedish Agency for Education (Skolverket) has been tasked to support primary and upper secondary schools to stimulate work on entrepreneurship
- The Swedish Agency for Economic and Regional Growth (Tillväxtverket) has been tasked to support colleges and universities to stimulate work on entrepreneurship
- The importance of stimulating entrepreneurship skills has been incorporated and emphasized in policy documents for secondary education
- The secondary vocational education has been linked more closely to work life and businesses
- Apprenticeship education has been introduced and students participating in training are given better insights into business conditions
- A mapping of the on-going work in upper secondary, vocational and higher education in entrepreneurship has been conducted.
The main target groups for the above actions are pupils and students, teaching staff and leaders of educational institutions.
In 2018, the Government has taken initiatives for pupils and students in compulsory and upper secondary education and in university colleges and universities for increasing their interest in entrepreneurship. A total of SEK 20 million ( about 1,9 million euros) is invested. New assignments go to the National Agency for Education (Skolverket), the Swedish Agency for Economic and Regional Growth (Tillväxtverket) and to fund a pilot initiative at the Royal Swedish Academy of Engineering Sciences (IVA).
The National Agency for Education gets SEK 10 million for strengthening entrepreneurship in compulsory and upper secondary schools. The Swedish Agency for Economic and Regional Growth will receive SEK 7 million for developing a digital education aimed at young entrepreneurs. IVA has been tasked to form a pilot initiative where pupils in grades 8 and 9 of compulsory school may try ow to run business during one day.
Incorporation of entrepreneurship competence in the curricula
In 2011, the government launched central parts of a new reform programme targeting the education system. A new Education Act came into force, accompanied by a new School Ordinance and a revised Curriculum. Through the changes made in the Curriculum, entrepreneurship was embedded across all levels and in all types of education, and is today part of a cross-curricular objective.
The importance of entrepreneurship in schools and education in Sweden was incorporated into the political agenda two decades ago. Since the mid-1990s there has been a political consensus that globalization, coupled with technological developments, makes the mobilisation of entrepreneurship skills within the educational system inevitable (Johannisson, Madsén & Hjorth, 1997). Increasing young people's propensity to start their own businesses after graduation has been and is considered to have a good effect on the country's labour market and economy.
However, despite the long consensus, it is not until recently that Sweden has taken a comprehensive approach to incorporate entrepreneurship into the school curricula.
Upper secondary education
One of the goals of entrepreneurship education in secondary education is to provide students with an entrepreneurial spirit and a different outlook on working life. Another goal for entrepreneurship education is to prepare people to work as entrepreneurs and to start a new business. This goal can often be achieved by facilitating students to experiment with an idea and by trying entrepreneurship in a controlled environment. When it comes to seeing how the goals vary depending on education level can be found that for grades 6–9 and upper secondary schools as well as colleges and universities, the purpose of entrepreneurship is to improve the attitude towards entrepreneurship and thus in the long term increase the number of start-ups (Skolverket 2015).
Since 1980, Junior Achievement Sweden (Ung Företagsamhet) has trained upper secondary level students in entrepreneurship processes through education. The idea is to give students experience in all stages of the enterprising life cycle. As support to the concept, there are teaching materials for students, a teacher's guide and local and regional support through regional offices.
Junior Achievement Sweden's most recognizable educational programme is called the Company Programme (UF-företagande). According to a report from 2012, half of the enterprises are found in vocational preparatory programmes and the other half in study preparatory programmes.
Vocational Education Training
It is difficult to analyse how entrepreneurship is treated in vocational education training programmes. VET is constructed via low level regulation and with a considerable influence from working life. Also, the VET programmes constitute a very heterogeneous group, where almost every training is unique and conducted under unique conditions. Entrepreneurship in VET is therefore associated with many different terms. For example, sense of initiative, enterprise, project management and value creation, often with a focus on innovation, improvement and enterprise.
A mapping made by the Swedish National Agency for Higher Vocational Education (Yrkeshögskolan) in 2010 of on-going work with entrepreneurship in VET showed that entrepreneurship was not a new phenomenon in VET. Within the different VET programmes, it was common to find that theoretical knowledge translated into practical elements both in the school-based parts and during LIA-periods (Learning at work). The general conclusion was that VET had good prerequisites for successfully working with entrepreneurship.
Since the mapping was conducted several years ago, it is likely that further development with entrepreneurship also has taken place.
Education in entrepreneurship at Swedish higher education institutions is comprised of a broad scale of study options, from strictly theoretical training to very specialized programmes for aspiring entrepreneurs.
A study on entrepreneurship in higher education (2016) shows that 37 out of 51 universities and university colleges offer some sort of training in innovation and entrepreneurship. Fifteen universities provide both programmes and courses. Nineteen universities provide only courses in entrepreneurship. Some courses and programmes involve different forms of traineeship, while others mainly take an academic, intellectual approach to entrepreneurship.
Two of the master level training programmes included elements enabling to students to start a business as part of their compulsory thesis. Those programmes represent the most complex and resource intensive alignment on entrepreneurship education.
Emax Sweden is an event organized annually since 2002 which brings together the foremost young entrepreneurs aged between 18 and 20 years old. The event takes place over the course of four days and is a combination of mixed lectures, social activities, networking exercises, team building, workshops, recreational activities, and an Internet-based business simulation, wherein participants can try to run a company.
BE the Future
The project BE the Future, aimed at young females from Sweden, Estonia and Latvia, is running between 2020 and 2022. The project is aiming at rasing awareness of self-employment as a career option, creating a positive attitude towards entrepreneurial activity and encouraging the target group to test their ideas and see entrepreneurship as a potential career option.
The three-year project will promote entrepreneurial mindsets through peer networking, sharing of best experiences and resources as well as engaging a ring of mentors for inspiration and guidance. The project aims to prepare, coach and support 225 young future female entrepreneurs from the three countries in the planning and development of student companies. By the end of the project, at least 50 student companies will have been created, which will be able to translate entrepreneurial intention into practice.
The Swedish National Agency for Education (Skolverket) has the government task of stimulating work with entrepreneurship in schools.
As part of the task, the agency has initiated and developed a knowledge overview, Skapa och våga, which gives an overall picture of experiences, concepts and research on entrepreneurship in school. The overview works as a guide for those active in school and for those interested in the on-going entrepreneurial work at schools. The overview is revised continuously.
In addition, the agency is distributing government grants to school providers for activities in order to stimulate the development of entrepreneurship and entrepreneurial learning within the school system. The agency has entrusted universities and colleges around the country to organize courses in entrepreneurial learning for staff at pre-school, primary and upper secondary school levels.
The Nordic Council of Ministries (Nordiska ministerrådet) is the official inter-governmental body for co-operation in the Nordic region. The Council publishes a magazine, which works as inspiration for schools who actively want to work with entrepreneurship.