Entrepreneurship on the comeback trail – major educational re-think required

During a vibrant debate at Wits Business School last week, I asked the audience how many would be using what they’ve learnt to start their own businesses. Of the 200 or so in the auditorium, less than a dozen hands were raised.

It highlighted what Grameen Bank founder Muhammed Yunus fretted about during our recent interview in Davos. The Nobel Peace Prize winner was horrified at the mindset of the educated children of illiterate mothers his bank supported into self-employment. Once they have earned a degree, Prof Yunus bellyached, these expensively educated children just sit at home, waiting in vain for someone to offer a job they now feel entitled to.

The key outcome of the Fourth Industrial Revolution is that artificial intelligence, computer software and robots will replace many jobs done by people. Not just the obvious ones in manufacturing. White collar workers are equally exposed, with unthinking replacements extending to pretty much anything that is routine or rules-based (accounting, tax, banking, etc).

In this new era, the right kind of education is critical – bringing back an age of apprenticeships, mentoring, and on-the-job training. As traditional jobs and hierarchies disappear, only those making a living authentically serving their fellow man will thrive. Bureaucrats not so much. Machines do their work cheaper and far better.

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