Oklahoma innovation leader urges efforts to reach younger students
Oklahoma must develop ways to cultivate entrepreneurial thinking earlier in its students, writes Scott Meacham, president and CEO of i2E Inc., a nonprofit corporation that mentors many of the state's technology-based startup companies.
Are our educational systems producing enough entrepreneurs?
I'm mindful that the University of Oklahoma, Oklahoma State University and many other of the state's fine colleges and universities now have outstanding entrepreneurship programs, but that's a pretty narrow funnel for producing entrepreneurs in the numbers we need.
DID YOU KNOW?
Women have been starting businesses at a higher rate than men for the past 20 years and are anticipated to create more than half of the 9.72 million new small business jobs expected by 2018.
We have conferences, competitions and awards that promote entrepreneurship across the broader community, but it seems to me that the vast majority of our students have the mindset of going to work for a big corporation versus starting their own business and building personal wealth that way.
The only way we can build our economy of the future is through innovation. Innovation comes from entrepreneurs.
We must figure out more ways to cultivate entrepreneurial thinking earlier in our students. We need to produce a healthy number of graduates that are not so focused on working for someone else.
We can start by being clear about the rewards that can come from successful entrepreneurship.
For example, Oklahoma's Donald W. Reynolds Governor's Cup and subsequent Tri-State competition show college and graduate students not only the hands-on how of entrepreneurship, but the why, with significant tangible financial awards worth more than $250,000 in cash, plus additional opportunities in scholarships.
We can also create interesting opportunities that draw students into the kinds of study that contribute to innovation.
STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education is critical for all students, as is business and liberal arts education for majors in science and math. Oklahoma has created state-level incentives for students to become engineers. We could broaden that to include science and math.
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