Throughout my career, I have had the opportunity to work with some of Malta’s foremost corporate leaders and entrepreneurs, many of whom emerged and evolved during a crucial juncture of the country’s development.

These were fired by a pioneering spirit underlined by a lot of courage, boundless creativity, a strong belief in the projects they undertook and a fierce determination to succeed.

Today, my business consultancy activity continues to put me in touch with the people behind small and medium enterprises – many of them family businesses – who, to a large extent, make Malta work, literally. They manage to do so despite tremendous odds.

Let there be no doubt for a moment that the success of any economy, including Malta’s, depends on the quality of its entrepreneurs, people who have the ideas and are willing to take the risks necessary to get a project off the ground. Moreover, this is a time when Europe, including Malta, needs more entrepreneurs, more innovation and more high-growth SMEs.

The European Union has also recognised this as a major topic across its markets and studies it has carried out reveal a variety of issues that are affecting the number and quality of its entrepreneurial base, issues with which we, in Malta, can also identify.

We need to stimulate the entrepreneurial mindsets of young people

It is evident that there are cultural factors that discourage too many people from starting a business. Specifically, the need to develop a more entrepreneurial culture, starting with young people and from school education, has never been greater. Entrepreneurship refers to an individual’s ability to turn ideas into action. It includes creativity, sense of initiative, innovation and risk-taking as well as the ability to plan and manage projects in order to achieve objectives. Ultimately, we need to stimulate the entrepreneurial mindsets of young people.

The important role of education in promoting more entrepreneurial attitudes and behaviours is now widely recognised and, consequently education for entrepreneurship is already high on the agenda in many EU member states, with a wide variety of programmes and activities existing across Europe.

It is also widely admitted, however, that there needs to be more systematic application of such initiatives.

It is vital that member states, including Malta, implement their stated commitment to promoting education for entrepreneurship at all levels, from primary school to University and beyond. Although many initiatives have emanated from the European Commission over the past decade, entre-preneurship education is still not a standard part of our children’s education.

This is a pity because research shows that pupils and students who have had access to entrepreneurial education are three to six times more likely to start a business at some point later in life than those who do not.

I reiterate that support for entrepreneurship has never been more important than it is now. Therefore, should I be elected to the European Parliament in May, I will make the reinforcing of entrepreneurial education in schools, vocational education institutions and universities one of my objectives.

From a local perspective, there is no doubt that this will have a positive impact on the entrepreneurial dynamism of our economy.

Indeed, besides contributing to the creation of business start-ups, entrepreneurship education will make our young people more employable and instil a more positive, innovative and dynamic mentality in their work within existing organisations, across the social, public and private sectors.

Investing in entrepreneurial education is one of the highest return investments that Europe, and Malta, can make.

Helga Ellul is a corporate leader with extensive experience in the manufacturing sector.

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