Equipping young entrepreneurs for life after lockdown

Dominic McGeown, Enterprise Co-Ordinator at South West College in Northern IrelandDominic McGeown, Enterprise Co-Ordinator at South West College in Northern Ireland, is part of an Erasmus+ Youth project team looking to equip young learners with effective tools to start their own business.

He shares his thoughts on the new online world and reflects on how it will impact entrepreneurs as we emerge from lockdown.

"With many businesses hitting pause on their services while we ride the wave of the global pandemic, an emphasis has been placed on how we can boost our skills and knowledge while in lockdown. The free time on some people’s hands has noticeably been filled with webinars and online courses to improve businesses and services in the long run.

At the beginning of the global pandemic, the worry was on how people could sustain their businesses while there was no interaction with customers. Worry and desperation had become the main feelings of any business owner with little or no awareness of the 'unknown' we were about to enter.

In a time when people have been urged to remain apart, the path has been paved for the hesitant among us to embrace technology and see the benefit in online connectivity. This has now been placed at the forefront of peoples lives, whether it be setting children up for online lessons, meeting family members for a quiz, or taking part in online webinars or courses to learn something new.

The advantage of online learning

Online webinars have become a part of an entrepreneurs’ day-to-day routine, looking for ways to boost their skills and reach out to their customers. When things return to normal (or our new normal, if things aren’t quite the same) they will help to make businesses as successful as they were before the pandemic.

Online, we see great examples of how these new skills and the prioritisation of online tools are being used.

The little bakery around the corner might now have a website where online orders can be taken for delivery, the local café might do the same for take-away coffees. There are countless examples of how a new acceptance of online methods has been successful, and this may all be thanks to one thing… webinars.

People sitting around table during project meeting

Widening participation

Events, seminars and lectures were an important part of an entrepreneur's journey, looking for new ways to boost their skills and to network. With the world on lockdown, this was another aspect of normal life that changed.

Then, with the world grasping the technology within its reach, we started to see opportunities appearing online which not only replaced the events we all used to attend, but in many ways improved upon them.

Dan standing and smiling with project staffWe have now opened up a world where people are sharing knowledge and stories globally, not just in person, locally. With open accessibility able to cater for a wide range of people who may not be able to travel or who are otherwise engaged, these are options that need to be investigated more often.

This is something that can also be seen through online school lessons and additive Erasmus+ programmes, such as ‘EuroSTEAM’ and ‘Digitize Enterprise’, which have allowed teachers and students to openly access a lot of content, and extra content, to improve their learning.

We currently see a wealth of resources and learning experiences online via Erasmus+ and this is the opportunity for people to take full advantage of the resources available to them.

Digitize Enterprise

The ‘Digitize Enterprise’ Erasmus+ Key Action 2 partnership brings together five European organisations - South West College (UK), Citizens in Power (Cyprus), Institute of Entrepreneurship Development (Greece), DRAMBLYS (Spain) and Donegal Youth Service (Ireland).

Our project aims to provide similar learning experiences for potential young entrepreneurs by providing a range of interactive content which is formatted to be engaging, challenging and thought-provoking. We hope it will encourage a new wave of innovative entrepreneurs to take the plunge into running their own business.

The project similarly aims to provide an outlet for creative young people who have a mind to become an entrepreneur, by providing a means in which they can learn more about crucial areas of enterprise in easy-to-understand terms.

We hope that it will help boost the entrepreneurial spirit of the youth not only in Northern Ireland but throughout Europe.

The benefits are coming

It is a remarkable time and although it is frightening for many new entrepreneurs and start-ups, when we approach the other side of this, it is very possible that we will see a new wave of innovations. Many entrepreneurs will have found a new way to engage with customers and flourish, to make their business the best it can be.

With life beginning to return to normal and businesses thankfully starting to open their doors once again, it is going to be a world where many entrepreneurs have grasped new ideas and methods for engaging with customers.

The methods which business owners have put in place to simply endure during the pandemic will become a new way of operating for many, and this is all thanks to those who shared their ideas and knowledge through online learning.

With our Digitize Enterprise project ready to release its first collection of learning resources, we hope to see an increase in young people considering entrepreneurship as an option for their future."

Discover how other Erasmus+ projects have adapted their activities so that their participants can continue learning in lockdown.