The SHAPE project: Shifting Hope, Activating Potential Entrepreneurship.
van der Westhuizen, Thea.
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Youth unemployment in South Africa is frighteningly high, with as many as 62% of those in the 18–35 age group unable to find work in a job market that is chronically unable to absorb new entrants, university graduates included. Against this background, encouraging and promoting a culture of entrepreneurship becomes an issue of utmost priority for the national economy, but it also faces daunting obstacles and constraints. Young South Africans are well aware of the bleak prospects that face them in a search for employment, yet very few entertain the notion of self-employment as a serious career option. Overall awareness of entrepreneurial possibilities and aspirations towards entrepreneurial enterprise have been notoriously low in the national culture, and particularly so among young people. The general lack of interest in entrepreneurship among young South Africans is not surprising when we consider the problems that confront them in terms of accessing financial support, the poor infrastructure, lack of anchor investors and poor support and incubation opportunities. More specifically, potential young entrepreneurs are also let down by inadequate and/or inappropriate education and training opportunities for an entrepreneurial career. Lacking in entrepreneurial self-confidence, and with little personal experience of entrepreneurial enterprises in the community, aspiring student entrepreneurs are poorly served by traditional training that is overly static and theoretical in course content and classroom-bound in pedagogy. Numerous commentators urge the need for a shift in entrepreneurship education to more action-centered, activity-based learning.