Small Steps for Enterprising Students: Small Steps for Enterprising Students:

Christopher Brown

Research output: Working paper

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It is an increasing challenge to both make our graduates ‘work-ready’ and develop their entrepreneurial skills whilst continuing to focus on opportunities to engage students and small enterprise in action-orientated projects. We recognise the need to create new learning settings that pivot around action learning both in the classroom and in a small business environment.
Small enterprise entrepreneurs are continuously challenged with changing internal and external environmental uncertainties, hence their learning is most often focused around reflection-in-action. Making graduates ‘work ready’ is more than providing them with the ‘know how’ and ‘know why’ experience, it is also about skilling them up to be more proficient at creating opportunities, and then developing and delivering them. A common criticism of the UK’s nascent workforce, over the soon to be retiring workforce, is their inability to contribute new skills and new mind-sets and thus build better business models capable of growing the business.
Our study explores the need for a new engagement project harnessing the development of a learning environment and pedagogic framework that supports the student, enterprise manager and the teacher in a mixed role of mentor, coach and facilitator.
The paper explores the triple roles played by each party (student, teacher and small enterprise manager) in the development of a ‘community of practice’ focused around the learning content and the learning environment (small enterprise). Where the three parties all take an active role in driving and supporting learning. To facilitate this the business school has created a course that delivers an intern to the business for one day a week, and then additional provides a mentor/coach with real experience of business scale-ups, and background materials to help both the intern and entrepreneur. The findings presented here are the result of both the intern and enterprise manager reflecting on their experiential learning journey during the six-month period of the project.
Over the last three years we have collected data on these experiential journeys, both during and after the initial internships. The insights provide a unique overview of the intern’s and enterprise manager’s action learning, by capturing the changes self-reported by each in both the nine skills and around the four key areas of business opportunity creation, development and delivery. Through this we have been able to help both the intern and enterprise manager re-skill and develop aspects of their competencies that will ultimately make them better decision makers in the future. We have also enabled them to experience the increase value of these types of collaborations, both from the interns increased employability and the enterprise manager’s understanding and benefits of looking outside of their enterprise for ‘much needed’ resources and skills.
Keywords: Communities
Original languageEnglish
PublisherUniversity of Hertfordshire
Number of pages16
Publication statusPublished - 28 Mar 2018


  • communities of practice
  • firm performance and growth
  • Entrepreneurial Competencies


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