Preparing tomorrow’s entrepreneurs

Today’s children are the next generation of entrepreneurs. But how to prepare schoolkids who’re used to sitting in a classroom, listening (or not) to what their teachers tell them, for setting up their own business one day? JA Portugal is part of Junior Achievement, a global educational non-profit organisation that promotes entrepreneurship among youngsters. Its mission: to inspire and prepare young people to succeed in a global economy. We asked JAPortugal’s CEO Erica Nascimento (pictured above in the middle) four questions about creating an entrepreneurial environment in Portugal.

See the original article in Enjoy the Algarve – magazine April 2016


1. What was your personal motivation to join Junior Achievement Portugal?

Erica: since a very early age, my dream was to one day work with children, like a kindergarten teacher or a paediatrician. So my dream just came true with a little twist. I joined JAPortugal in January 2007. Luckily I was told by a business person I knew that they were looking for a new program manager. ‘Junior what?’ I thought. I looked at the website and immediately fell in love with what this organisation was doing with children and young people, taking care of their future. I had just finished a professional traineeship in the National Institute for Intellectual Property in the International Relations department.

When I started with JAPortugal, the organisation was established one year before, and there were still so many things to do, adapt and achieve. What I liked back then, and still do now, is that I learned to multi-task and be focused. My challenges were to define priorities, to plan and implement events, to do a budget, to deliver trainings to teachers and volunteers, to pitch to CEO’s, to deal with daily problems and of course solve them, all together with an amazing team.


2. Why is the work that JAPortugal does so important?

Erica: our organisation works on a principle of learning by doing; students make mistakes, repeat, fail again and thus, they learn in the process. They interact with surrounding communities, both in the academic and business environment, and put their ideas into practice. Teachers say that students are showing more interest in school and are more responsible for the projects in which they take part. Our activity is linked to business volunteering, which promotes a close relationship with citizens and social economy organisations. The proof that the business world and education do not communicate efficiently, is that millions of young people have a university degree in Europe, and yet 39% of the companies have trouble finding people with the right skills they need…

In Portugal, JA reaches around 33,000 students per year, from primary school through to university. We offer programs to develop skills such as problem solving, taking initiative, teamwork, creativity, being a digital native and being aware of how organisations work. One of the aspects of our organisation is that we bring together two worlds that are typically apart: business and education. We bridge the gap between theory and practice, between the public and private sector.


3. Currently there’re a lot of Portuguese entrepreneurs setting up their own small companies (especially in IT). What, according to you, is the main reason that these start-ups are so successful in Portugal?

Erica: I believe that it’s a question of changing mind-sets. We passed through difficult times and we just had to change! The nature of employment has changed and is more fast-paced than ever. Business models have been disrupted. We have a full scenario of uncertainties and risks which demand a different set of skills. Technology has transformed the way people interact with the world and the way they learn. JA and many other organisations such as universities, incubators, accelerators and start-ups are building an entrepreneurial environment in Portugal. This has led to a Portuguese generation of entrepreneurs popping up, conquering their space at the European start-up industry spotlight. We’ll certainly hear from them in the future.


4. So, job well done then?

Erica: despite all this success, we do have a lot of work to do in Portugal. We must prepare and equip a new generation of innovators and problem-solvers in every sector, to be digitally prepared, for example.

This new generation of entrepreneurs, resilient people who persevere when looking for new solutions, is the answer to many of Europe’s requirements in some – if not all – areas where there are ongoing concerns: environment, economy, and politics. Entrepreneurial skills are, moreover, competencies that the labour market already values and entrepreneurial education is identified as the key factor for an easier transition from school to work.



See the original article in Enjoy the Algarve – magazine April 2016

Posted in Features.