The entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well amoung young Canadians. According to a new report from the Council of Ontario Universities (COU), 46% of Canada’s post-secondary students see themselves starting a business after graduation. This post-secondary desire is echoed in the shift in employment we are seeing in Canada as more than half a million entrepreneurs created their own jobs in the last year.
These were some of the findings highlighted in the COU report Entrepreneurship at Ontario Universities: Fuelling Success which was launched today at the Ryerson Digital Media Zone. The report puts a spotlight on entrepreneurship within Ontario schools. It celebrates the creative minds coming out of our schools that are transforming the economy and the programs and initiatives that help nurture and facilitate their success.
“The time has come when we have to be rating our success in post-secondary education not just by the number of students who graduate but by the number of students who graduate with businesses,” Brad Duguid, Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities said paraphrasing wise words he once heard from Ryerson President Sheldon Levy who was the MC for the event. “Our goal should be to teach these student not just how to get a job but how to create a job for themselves and others.”
Duguid pointed to Ryerson’s Digital Media Zone as a great example of how Ontario universities are helping to achieve this goal. “These words are being put into action every single day here in the Ryerson Digital Media Zone. I feel the entrepreneurial spirit oozing out of every part of this living laboratory”.
On-campus incubators were a big focus in the COU report which described them as places that allow “innovative students to think big and take the risks necessary for business creation”.
Among the list of incubutors was University of Waterloo’s VeloCity which has had more than a 1,000 people participated since it’s inception in 2008 and 45 current and alumni companies started including Kik and Vidyard. University of Toronto’s Entrepreneurship Hatchery, Creative Destruction lab and OCAD’s Imagination Catalyst were also featured in the report.
Incubators were just one of the many ways Ontario schools are helping to create a new generation of entrepreneurs. The COU report detailed courses, competitions and programs all geared at infusing a sense of entpreneurial spirit in students.
“We need more than just the skilled, trained and educated workforce,” explained Duguid. “We need people who are going to drive innovation in our research labs, our economy and our businesses. This report tells me that Ontario is not only headed in the right direction, we are blowing the competition out of the water”.
To continue to give Ontario an edge and to encourage students to start their own business, the Minister announced that starting this Fall, college and university students who start their own businesses will be able to defer starting to pay back their OSAP loans for a full year rather than the standard six months.
Dr. Sean Wise, professor at the Ted Rogers School of Management, says entrepreneurs are wholly essential to keeping up the innovation and change that represents the twentieth century. He also believes that unique programs like incubators and competitions are the best way to create a new generation here in Ontario. “I don’t think entrepreneurship can be taught. I do think it can be learned. And its our job as entrepreneurial educators to facilitate that learning,” explained Wise.
Wise was quite passionate about the shift we are seeing in employment which is moving away from five to ten years at a big company to starting up your own. “The years of life long employment are over,” he shouted to the crowd. “Long live the future of entrepreneurship”.