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Implications on entrepreneurial learning of adult migrants

The issue of whether being innovative and entrepreneurial can be taught is highly relevant given its economic importance (Harkema and Popescu, 2015). We consider that entrepreneurship is a competence that can be acquired with a proper learning experience that largely depends on the pedagogical approach and the context wherein teaching and learning takes place. It is important that trainers place themselves in learners’ position to understand their intention and so be able to better help them to learn entrepreneurial competences. Adult learners are ready and motivated to learn, but what they expect to learn should be relevant to their lives. This is another important issue to consider when training migrants on entrepreneurship.

A complete entrepreneurship training should be designed as it brings in all competences covered by EntreComp Framework summarised in the previous section. In more simplified terms, basic learning outcomes of a complete entrepreneurship training should be:

  • evaluating opportunities
  • securing resources
  • growing and sustaining the enterprise.

The logic behind this structure is that once a company starts to grow, the role of the entrepreneur changes. Whereas in the start-up phase, the phases of idea creation and commercializing the idea are emphasized, in a later stage the managerial competences of the entrepreneur grow in importance (Harkema and Popescu, 2015).

The training strategy and approach adopted in an entrepreneurship training is as important as its context and topics. The concept of learning entrepreneurship comprised of a mixed cognitive process of experiental learning – learning by/from doing – and information processing. Learning in entrepreneurship, which comes together with the necessity of solving complex problems and making entrepreneurial decisions, requires the strong interaction of tacit[1] and explicit[2] knowledge. In this regard, a learner-centered approach is essential in an entrepreneurship training designed for adult learners. This approach also allows consideration of the diversity of learners’ learning characteristics, experiences, perspectives, backgrounds, talents, interests, capacities and needs. Not specific to entrepreneurship training but relevant to a learner-centred approach in general, McCombs (1997) – cited in Harkema and Popescu (2015), defines three important conditions which need to be met for an effective learning experience:

  • The learning environment should facilitate the exploration of meaning. Learners must feel safe and accepted, and they must understand the risks and rewards of seeking knowledge and understanding. The environment must create a setting wherein involvement, interaction and socialization is combined with a business-like approach to accomplishing a certain task.
  • Learners must be given frequent opportunities to confront new information and experiences in their search for meaning and understanding. Those opportunities should not be provided in a passive receptive form by merely giving information.
  • New meaning and understanding should be acquired through a process of personal discovery. These methods should be tuned to the individual and adapted to the learner’s own style, and pace of learning.

Given these conditions and adult learner profiles, the trainers need to be aware of the key dimensions and relevant concepts/theories for a suitable learning process. The relevant learning processes in entrepreneurship concepts are grouped below by Fayolle and Gailly (2008);

  1. Learning to become an enterprising individual
  2. Learning to become an entrepreneur (or an expert in the field of entrepreneurship)
  3. Learning to become an academic (teacher or researcher in the field of entrepreneurship)

As the main audiences of the adult volunteers will be migrants and refugees who are potential entrepreneurs, it is important to summarize the aims and key dimensions of the training processes proposed for these groups.

Learning to become an enterprising individual;

This learning process is aimed at helping individuals to better position themselves as entrepreneurs and become more enterprising. It is therefore meant to develop individuals’ entrepreneurial spirit, to make them more entrepreneurial, first in terms of mindset, then through their actions. So, entrepreneurship is taken as a broad concept and there is a focus on the spiritual dimension and the importance of involving successful entrepreneurs as role models to learners. Soft skills, such as idea creation, spotting opportunities and mobilizing resources are more important for this group, than managerial skills.

Learning to become an entrepreneur;

This learning process is intended for individuals engaging in an entrepreneurial project and who wish to benefit from some support and training. There is an emphasis on professional/practical dimensions of the training program and the core approach is based on learning by doing. The expected outcome of learning process is acquisition of entrepreneurial and managerial skills, practical knowledge, techniques to act and succeed as an entrepreneur.

Entrepreneurial self-development is basically meant to bring in the skills needed to improve migrants’/refugees’ situation not only through entrepreneurial action but as a whole. So different approaches and pedagogies should be applied to different groups who will have either a serious intention to become an entrepreneur or those who only wish for self-development. Therefore, there is a need for a complete training course that can be tailored to different situations.

Following on from the above, where a migrant is seriously interested in becoming an entrepreneur (or self-employed) the essential aspect of any training intervention is that it should impart practical learning outcomes to the participant.

Evaluation of good practices[3] indicates that the chances of a migrant’s success as an entrepreneur is enhanced if the support given is multidimensional and includes elements from each of the following categories:

  • Competence and skills (for example, training, legal advice, business support)
  • Social capital (Networking and mentoring)
  • Tangible needs (practical help such as provision of facilities or access to finance)

These elements are a logical conclusion from experience and, providing migrants are able to communicate to a reasonable level in the host country’s language can form the foundation for preparing for either entrepreneurship or self-employment (the difference can be viewed in terms of risk: An entrepreneur sets up his/her own business, whereas a self-employed person might simply choose to work for a company on a contract basis).

Critical to the success of any intervention to help migrants become entrepreneurs or self-employed is the need to provide simple, practical advice illustrated with success stories from other migrants.[4]

Competence and skills: There are a huge variety of training courses available, so the question becomes “what sort of course?” Many of the most practical courses available are based on the preparation, presentation and refinement of a business plan.[5] Such training cuts across all three categories as it enhances competence and skills, (training) Social Capital (opportunities for networking) and Tangible needs (a business plan is essential for accessing finance).

Further, there are simple self-assessment tools available to check that a person has the right skillset to set up and run a business of their own.

Social Capital: There are a myriad of organisations across Europe that provide support for small businesses; for example, Chambers of Commerce, Government sponsored business support agencies and consultants. These can provide regular opportunities for networking as well as providing an element of business support. Networking and Mentoring provide an excellent opportunity for migrants to learn about what success looks like and how to avoid some of the pitfalls of self-employment or entrepreneurship.

Tangible needs: This requires the most practical elements of support. How to find and secure facilities from which to run a business (this could be from home, remotely or a rented office). Access to finance would normally link in to the other categories Competence and skills; Social Capital) as it is usually heavily dependent on having a credible and robust business plan that can be presented to a financial institution (whether a bank, extended family or a government agency) networking can also help in terms of understanding where others have sourced finance.

In summary, the competence framework for migrants wishing to seek an entrepreneurial or self-employed career in their host country should be simple and focus on the practical outcomes that they need. Assuming that the migrants have reached a basic level of competency in the language of their host nation, the learning outcomes could be summarised as:

  • An understanding of their aptitude to pursue and entrepreneurial or self-employed career;
  • Knowledge of the most appropriate types of training available and how to access them;
  • Understanding of business support and networking organisations in their host nation and how to access them;
  • Knowledge of the options available concerning locations to work;
  • [Linked to the second point] knowledge of the importance of a business plan and business regulation.

This content is developed with the contributions of e-mel which is one of the MAV Project partners.


[1] Tacit knowledge: the knowledge that is not acquired through education or self-development, but from personal or professional experience, and hard to transfer from one to another.

[2] Explicit knowledge: the knowledge that can be articulated, codified, stored and can be easily transferred one to another.

[3] European Commission_1, 2016, Evaluation and Analysis of Good Practices in Promoting and Supporting Migrant Entrepreneurship – Guide Book

[4] Interviews with UK expert organisations, e-mel.

[5] 2003, Small Business Guide, Lloyds Bank Plc, Ed Sara Williams



European Commission_1, 2016, Evaluation and Analysis of Good Practices in Promoting and Supporting Migrant Entrepreneurship – Guide Book

Fayolle, A. and Gailly, B., 2008, From craft to science: Teaching models and learning processes in entrepreneurship education, Journal of European Industrial Training, Vol. 32 Issue: 7, 569-593

Harkema, S. and Popescu, F., 2015, Entrepreneurship education for adults: a case study, Procedia – Social and Behavioural Sciences 209 (2015) 213 – 220

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