Experiential learning is learning through doing as opposed to book learning. It’s not a new concept as educational institutions may prescribe working for companies for short periods – interning – as part of the curriculum. However, we are starting to see a new form of experiential learning, whereby, instead of students working for someone, they are able to run a business during their studies. The US coffee chain Saxbys, in conjunction with certain colleges, is preparing students to be CEOs by allowing them to run a store at a location near their campus for a semester and paying them for it. The African Leadership Academy here in South Africa is doing something similar in their entrepreneurship module. Students are required to run their own businesses for ten months of the year, ranging from selling homework assistance services to selling jewellery.
Why is it important?
Not every student who graduates is guaranteed a job, especially in South Africa with our high youth unemployment rate. That is why entrepreneurship skills are so critical. This form of experiential learning enables students to leave educational institutions with real world entrepreneurship experience, something that cannot be learnt solely from books. Also, students can use this experience as a microcredential to bolster their CVs, making them more sought after. For students who would rather run their own businesses than work for someone, this training could prove invaluable.
What can businesses do about it?
Businesses can partner with educational institutions, in the way that Saxbys does, to offer opportunities for students to demonstrate their leadership and entrepreneurial skills, both of which will stand them in good stead as employees. In this way, companies can assess potential employees before hiring them on a full-time basis once they graduate. Also, a partnership such as this with an educational institution, enables companies to enter a lucrative market, the campus economy.
By Faeeza Khan
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