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Skill Development 2016-08-31

Entrepreneurs, education, and extracurricular activities

Our educational institutes have within their precincts the right opportunities that entrepreneurs need to notice and then nurture and nourish.

Entrepreneurs, education, and extracurricular activities

Even if an organisation is in the business of selling jars of foot-cream and bars of skin-tone whitening soap, it needs love and skills to come together to create those corporate masterpieces called ‘growth over the previous year’ and ‘super dividends for the investor’. Love and skills aren’t just PR-coined hashtags for applause on the social media nor are they empty-headed keywords gate-crashing into entrepreneurship. Their relation with the fiendish ambience of a successful corporate is as sound as the positioning of profit margins is in the marketing universe.

To those who are at the helm of affairs in the corporates, words like love and skills would hardly seem to rhyme with market-ready and future-ready fresh recruitments and yet, the link is undeniable. Businesses thrive on young go-getters brain-storming for innovative ideas as well as storming sales arenas for trophies and any delay in this real-world action comes with its dose of despondency. Businesses have to continually hire people and then train them for months before they turn into profit generators and yet the truth is that blaming our educational institutes and colleges for this flaw will be incorrect. The truth is that our educational institutes have within their precincts the right opportunities that entrepreneurs need to notice and then nurture and nourish.

Entrepreneurship in education is no longer about mentorship or sponsorship of the annual college fest, nor is it about the higher echelons of corporates rushing for guest lectures on weekends. An entire generation of managers seems to have forgotten that a strategic link-up with extracurricular activities in institutes and colleges has the potential to evolve into the most powerful weapon that businesses have ever seen.

Extracurricular activities, by the way, are not about a self-centred activity, but help students develop their talents, interests, and passions besides making them understand practical skills like time management. These activities are not about a cursory experience but gently nudge talent in the right direction and have a placental connection with values relevant to the social matrix of the times.

As I wrote the above paragraphs, Specky, my wife, came and stood by my side and whispered, ‘Can’t you ever be simpler?’ I looked up, re-read the lines already written and mumbled, ‘You’re right. So let me tell you that corporates and entrepreneurs have to spend months training college graduates to first unlearn the text-book orientation that they have grown up with and then learn to apply skills the way the market demands. And so it makes sense for entrepreneurs to slash this unproductive post-recruitment training period and replace it with…’

‘…with a well-thought of extracurricular invasion at the college and institute level,’ added Specky with a smile.

There are hundreds of ways this participation of entrepreneurs in extracurricular activities can be tactically introduced. Let me give a few examples. The publishing industry can, for instance, help the College Literary Club or the college magazine follow professional guidelines and be like internships for those intending to join them later. Thus, every skill, from cartooning to sewing or weaving to ceramics, has the possibility of one or more connected industry to step in and help institutes build the right infrastructure and a relevant focus. What I am also trying to say is that students while they are in college do need to be eased on the right path. There is no reason why anyone must discourage a college entrant from remaining fascinated with hair-styling or body-building or cooking healthy food. Instead, it will by far be better to help him set up his own YouTube channel or a blog where this specific obsession gets a chance to be converted into an activity that also makes him appreciate the art of clear and precise expression of ideas. In the long term it is businesses that are going to benefit from this skill practiced.

Talent isn’t something that will magically appear within minutes after stepping out of the college gates and entering a corporate or an industry. It needs to go through long years of nurturing. Students are learners who need to first flirt with a lot of skills to finally zero-in on one or two and focus on them. This is the sort of nursery where love and skills can be understood and realised – and it is impractical to conclude that they must always remain the sole responsibility of the institute. Entrepreneurs need to step in.

I still remember the time when I went to a college to interview students during their placement week. My favourite question was, ‘What all do you know beyond your text-books?’

Every student was completely stumped. They didn’t know what to say because all they knew revolved around their text-books. ‘This interview,’ I told them all, ‘should not be your first failure but your initiation into a new realisation.’ Acting in a few plays invariably ends up teaching more about interpersonal relationships than any book would. Debates and elocution participations have clarity in thoughts and a logical assimilation of appropriate ideas in the right sequence inbuilt in them. These are skills that entrepreneurs are looking for… and if this is really true, businesses need to make it their business to label extracurricular activities as opportunities for future-building.

About the author:

Arvind Passey began his professional life marching up and down the drill square of the Indian Military Academy as a gentleman cadet and ended his job-era playing hide-&-seek with media teams as the Head of Corporate Communications. A few of the 1800+ poems written by him are published in journals in India & UK but the rest still in notebooks, loose sheets, penned on napkins, and in computer files. He has had short-stories published in anthologies and articles in The Education Post, The Huffington Post, Business Insider, InsightBuzzar, & MarketingBuzzar. He dreams of travelling to every country in the world… and of finally completing his first novel. On the social media he is /arvindpassey everywhere. Blog: http://passey.info

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