Unemployment among university graduates in Indonesia reached the alarming figure of 1.1 million at the end of 2008. One way of reducing this number is through a systematic entrepreneurship education program for students. For this to have any chance of sustainable success, a synergy is needed involving government, university, business and social figures.
Entrepreneurship is demonstrated by the power of turning ideas into reality, no matter how silly or how crazy they are. Entrepreneurship has the power of equipping and empowering students who do not even have any business background, to get to the stage of innovative venture creation.
This has been happening in the United States for more than 35 years. Donald F. Kuratko in Entrepreneurship: Theory and Practice noted that the number of colleges offering entrepreneurship-related programs has grown from a handful to more than 1,600 between 1995 and 2005.
The US venture creation record is too good to be true. Kuratko shows that within that same decade, the average number of new business incorporations was astonishingly high. Each year, the country saw an average of 600,000 business startups, expansions, or development. The highest was in 1995, when 807,000 new small firms were established. Since 1980, Fortune 500 companies have shed more than 5 million jobs, but at the same time, more than 34 million new jobs have been created.
What is entrepreneurship? In Indonesia, it has been mistakenly reduced to trading, which is really a subset of entrepreneurship. This misconception has led to entrepreneurship programs becoming merely training grounds for trading activities. A huge part of entrepreneurship training should indeed involve opportunity creation, innovation and calculated-risk taking.
Tina Zeelig, executive director for Stanford Technology Ventures Program, defines entrepreneurship as the pursuit of opportunity beyond the resources you control. William J. Baumol, senior economist and professor emeritus at Princeton University and co-author of Good Capitalism, Bad Capitalism, and the Economics of Growth and Prosperity cited that entrepreneurial processes involve the discovery and fulfillment of opportunity.
A successful entrepreneur will steer an idea into a commercial reality. In order to realize it, one needs to acquire knowledge and skills in addition to being bold, imaginative, resourceful and constantly learning.
Ciputra, the founder of the Ciputra Group, defines entrepreneurship as the skill that would turn trash and scrap into gold. His four-decade experience leads him to believe that true entrepreneurs generate added-value by creating opportunity to use innovation and are willing to take calculated mental and financial risks in order to propel his idea into a commercial success.
If entrepreneurship is such an appealing factor for job creation and eventually drive the Indonesian economy forward, can entrepreneurship be taught? If yes, what are the best approaches and practices of entrepreneurship training for Indonesian university students?
This takes us to the perennial debate about whether entrepreneurs are created or born. Peter Drucker, the leading management thinker of our time, went straight to the heart of the issue when he said: "The entrepreneurial mystique? It's not magic, it's not mysterious, and it has nothing to do with the genes. It's a discipline. And, like any discipline, it can be learned."
We do not need to go far to prove Drucker's statement. In 2007, the Universitas Ciputra Entrepreneurship Center initiated the Campus Entrepreneur Program (CEP) in cooperation with the Graduate School of the University of Gadjah Mada (UGM).
The result was amazing. This experience convinced us that entrepreneurship can be taught.
Theoretically, similar programs should be created in Indonesian major cities to scale up the impact of the CEP in Indonesia. However, its success depends highly on the quality of the trainers who have had years of experience in the real business world and are knowledgeable in entrepreneurship based learning methods.
Our first priority is therefore to focus on training and creating teams of trainers that will be able to create similar success throughout Indonesia. Two hundred professors from 60 universities throughout Indonesia have been trained to perform such a task. However, it is not enough because the five-day Training of Trainers (TOT) covers only the foundation and the philosophy of the CEP.
What we need is that these going-to-be entrepreneurship trainers experience the full course of the CEP in order to really deal with the experiential learning the CEP students have. This is so that the trainers will gain their own personal experience of becoming an entrepreneur.
If we talk about 2,800 existing colleges and universities in Indonesia, we need a greater commitment from every stakeholder: Government, Academicians, Business society and Social figures (GABS). The synergy should work hand in hand to create a fertile breeding ground and atmosphere for new job creation; a great amount of government funding, university entrepreneurship program development by academicians, mentorship from business society and social value guidelines from social figures.