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RUNNING HEAD: Entrepreneurship in Higher Education Institutes 1

Entrepreneurship Education and Entrepreneurial Spaces in Higher Education Institutes

Besma Soltan


Critical Making 5199G

Ontario Tech University

Dr. Janette Hughes

December 7, 2019
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Entrepreneurship Education and Entrepreneurial Spaces in Higher

Education Institutes

Small in size but mighty in outcome and influence. Such is the state of Canadian small

and medium sized businesses that employ 70% of all Canadians and contribute to over 35% of

the country’s gross domestic product (Small Business Tourism and Marketplace Services,

2016). Women own around a third of those businesses (Small Business Tourism and

Marketplace Services, 2016), with new and visible minority Canadians being in the lead for

owning a startup or small business than their counterparts (Small Business Tourism, 2018).

Such statistics demonstrate the influence that entrepreneurship and entrepreneurs have

on the Canadian economy. As a response, the provincial and federal governments have been

supporting initiatives that aid the continued growth of entrepreneurship, be it through training,

funding, or mentorship. Higher education institutes have been offering entrepreneurship related

courses for the past century, but with more recent social and economic changes,

entrepreneurship has become of high interest to both policymakers and higher education

institutes (Sá et al., 2014). Several examples of demonstrating this support exist, such as

Imagination Catalyst at OCAD University (Crosbie, 2014), Venture for Canada (Galang, 2018),

SURGE at Mohawk College (Mohawk College, 2015) and EDGE at Sheridan College (Federal

Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario, 2019).

A few months ago, I began my employment at the Entrepreneurship Discovery and

Growth Engine (EDGE) at Sheridan College as a Program Lead for VenturED, a program that

connects the college’s educational offerings to entrepreneurship. Students are given the

opportunity to connect to real businesses and entrepreneurs, learn more about their work, and

gain new skills that can aid them in securing employment post-graduation. This could be

facilitated through a partnership between an entrepreneurial venture and a group of students

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working on a capstone project, a creative problem-solving session class discussing a problem

faced by an early stage startup, or students exploring the potential of turning an idea they have

into a business during their co-op term. In the process, VenturED engages students with “the

creative production of artifacts and (individuals) who find physical and digital forums to share

their processes and products with others” (Halverson et al., 2014), part of the definition of a


This paper will discuss entrepreneurship education and entrepreneurial spaces in higher

education institutes and their intersection with makerspaces, how entrepreneurial skills can be

valuable to students’ employment opportunities after completing post-secondary studies, and

critiques to this movement. Given my close involvement with EDGE at Sheridan College,

examples of collaborations with faculty members along with feedback from students will be

utilized to demonstrate the results of integrating entrepreneurial skills into their learning.

Entrepreneurship and Entrepreneurial Spaces

Entrepreneurship is defined as “the application of enterprise skills specifically to creating

and growing organizations in order to identify and build on opportunities” (Maas & Jones, 2018,

p.5). Entrepreneurs work within an entrepreneurial ecosystem, which is a network of formal and

informal players and environments that connect and facilitate the growth of entrepreneurial

initiatives (Maas & Jones, 2018, p.5). This includes business incubators, which are programs

that provide mentorship, training, logistical and technical resources, along with shared office

space, better known as co-working spaces, to early stage start-up businesses (What are

business incubators, 2019). Businesses that have advanced from those stages and are more

stable and self-sufficient can move into a business accelerator, which allows them to

“accelerate” to the next phase of growth during a fixed period of time (Ganamotse et al., 2017).
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Conferences around the world emphasize the importance of entrepreneurship for the

development of a nation on an economical and societal level (Ustyuzhina et al., 2019). With the

unpredictable and rapid changes in technology, and the complex and unpredictable future as a

result of it, students need to be prepared to face whatever is to come with the right skills,

knowledge and attitude. The Canadian Council of Ministers of Education (2019) identifies

entrepreneurship among the following six pan-Canadian global competencies:

• critical thinking and problem solving

• innovation, creativity, and entrepreneurship

• learning to learn/self-awareness and self-direction

• collaboration

• communication

• global citizenship and sustainability

Entrepreneurship and entrepreneurial thinking encompass much of the identified global

competencies needed by future generations to meet the ongoing needs of life and work.

Although some critics argue that entrepreneurial education strengthens the influence of

neoliberalism, social amnesia and leads to a crisis of identity among students (Newstadt, 2015;

Shahsavari-Googhari, 2017), such critiques neglect to see the opportunities created by

entrepreneurs that incorporate societal and environmental goals. In more recent years, social

and sustainable entrepreneurship have spread to encompass “entrepreneurial endeavours to

social, ecological and economic aspects: or, in other words, sustainable development” (Lans et

al., 2013). Entrepreneurial thinking requires students to be innovative and creative when

thinking of a solution to a problem or a need, applying critical thinking and problem solving to

analyze who would benefit from the solution. In the process, they are learning about their selves

and their capabilities, along with needed areas of growth that collaborating and communicating
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with others can respond to. The process equips them with the “tools to adapt to diverse

situations and become lifelong learners. These (skills) can be interdependent and leveraged in a

variety of situations and across disciplines” (Council of Ministers of Education, 2019) such as

issues that impact the society and the environment. Social and sustainable entrepreneurship

encompasses the final global competency of global citizenship and sustainability as it allows for

the creation of businesses with a triple bottom lines, serving profit, planet, and people (Gillis &

James, 2015). Social entrepreneurs create solutions to social and environmental problems

through the use of sustainable products and methods of production, taking advantage of the

need of creating sustainable innovations through the exploitation of profitable business models

(Lans et al., 2013).

The Council of Ministers of Education (2019) notes that the six-pan Canadian global

competencies enable learners to meet the continuous and ever-changing demands of life, work

and learning, allowing them to be reactive to the needs of their communities, and enhancing

their outlook on diverse viewpoints locally and globally. What this summarizes to is for the

learners’ to be more adaptive and resilient to the unexpected changes brought on by a

knowledge-based economy. With an unexpected and potentially unstable market, the multitude

of skills and experiences required from employees evolve to encompass multiple interconnected

disciplines (Liang, 2011). These skills free learners from being dependent on a set of knowledge

that is only suitable in one specific dimension, and empowers them to transfer it into multiple

dimensions. Entrepreneurial skills also bridge the gap between socioeconomic statuses, in that

it allows one’s livelihood to not be dependent on the decisions of a corporation or a senior-

status individual, as the skills enable the learner to start their own business and be their own

boss. This vision is in line with that of the maker movement, as it enhances the democratization

of education (Halverson et al., 2014). Additionally, the emergence of bottom-up

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entrepreneurship supported by some higher education institutes offering mentorship and

training for free, along with the growth of crowdfunding movements has made entrepreneurial

endeavors more accessible to a wider group of individuals who were previously restricted by

lack of money or knowledge (Aldrich, 2014).

Economists look towards entrepreneurship and innovation as saviors of a nation’s

economic growth and a means to support in-demand fields (Galang, 2017). The quantity of

entrepreneurial activity is a vital indicator of the economic status of communities and countries

(Sa, 2014), which includes producing original work along with altering the work of others – a

definition commonly used to describe “making” (Aldrich, 2014). To that end, the government has

been dedicating billions of dollars towards supporting the growth of relevant initiatives, including

entrepreneurship education and entrepreneurial spaces within post-secondary institutes.

Entrepreneurial skills allow students to become more competitive and adaptive to the changes

in the job market, altering their mentality to be focused on making the job as opposed to getting

it (Liang, 2011).

Most colleges and universities now have “entire programs devoted to teaching students

what it takes to invent the next big thing, attract investors and take their service or product to

market” (COU, 2013).Giving learners the opportunity to innovate, or make, often leads to the

enhancement of existing products and services, along with establishing new industries (Aldrich,

2014) that can lead to more employment opportunities. Whether a student decides to create

their own job or work for others, such programs lead to a win-win situation regardless of the

path decided by the student. It develops their innovative capacity and prepares them to function

like entrepreneurs even when they are employees of an organization – a term known as ‘intra-

preneurs’ (Newstadt, 2015).

Colleges are often involved in entrepreneurial spaces through applied research projects.

According to a recent report released by Colleges and Institutes Canada (2019), over 2,100
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prototypes and 880 new products were completed in 2017-2018, with 64% of research

partnerships occurring with small and medium enterprises (SMEs) that would otherwise not

have the financial or human capacity to conduct their research alone. Access to tools typically

found in a makerspace, such as 3D printers, CNC machines, and laser cutters, allow students

interested in making along with early stage entrepreneurs to experiment with their designs in a

more accessible way, as they can create prototypes more rapidly while using fewer resources

(Aldrich, 2014). The partnerships between the college system and SMEs also provide the

students with the opportunity to gain hands-on learning experiences through their work with

potential employers.

Entrepreneurship Discovery and Growth Engine (EDGE) at Sheridan College

Sheridan College’s Entrepreneurship Discovery and Growth Engine (EDGE) is one of

the entrepreneurial spaces functioning with an academic institution. It provides early stage

startups, new entrepreneurs and innovators with support to develop their skills through training,

mentorship, access to apply for funding, and a co-working space (Sheridan College, 2019). At

such, EDGE is a business incubator that is open to Sheridan’s students, staff, faculty, alumni

and the public. Through one of its newest programs, VenturED (read as Venture Ed, where the

ED stands for education), it provides hands on opportunities to develop students’ creativity,

innovation, and leadership skills, along with exposure to entrepreneurship. The following section

discusses some of those opportunities, documenting interactions of impact and the learning

avenues provided to students. The opportunities discussed below are ones that I worked on

with students and faculty members at Sheridan College, given my VenturED Program Lead role.

In the process, I have incorporated aspects learned about making and makerspaces, noting the

impact created in the process, and the overlap between maker pedagogy and the adaptation of

entrepreneurial skills.
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Elements of entrepreneurship can be integrated into any academic program, through the

delivery of material that is tailored to the learning outcomes of a specific course. On November

21st, 2019, I facilitated a workshop to 23 students in a “Principles of Creative Problem Solving”

class, which is part of the Undergraduate Certificate in Creativity and Creative Problem Solving

offered to Sheridan students as degree breadth elective courses. Prior to my visit, the students

had been tasked with generating creative ideas to solve a problem of choice that relates to life

on campus. Their identification of an issue faced by a particular group of students is similar to

an entrepreneur brainstorming about a problem facing a particular group of people. The

course’s professor had notified me that some of the ideas are unrealistic, and do not take into

account the needs of the diverse student population, nor the realities of what is feasible to the

college administration body. My task was to walk the students through the value proposition

canvas, a tool to elaborate on what a product or service provides to a particular group of

individuals, explaining why that group would select that specific product over another

(Osterwalder & Pigneur, 2013). The majority of the students were from programs in the Faculty

of Animation, Arts and Design, with no knowledge in business, including basic business

terminologies. I had to explain the components of the value proposition canvas through

terminologies and concepts they are familiar with. For example, the potential solutions to solve

the issues they identified is similar to identifying a product or service that can be offered by an

entrepreneur through a startup business. Discovering which group of students is most affected

by the issue and why is equivalent to identifying a niche market of customers that would be

most interested in purchasing the product or service provided as it responds to a particular

need. Having gone through the ideation stage and identification of the problem, the individuals

impacted by it, and potential solution, the students were then asked to plot this information on
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the value proposition canvas. They had to explain why the group of peers they are targeting

would use their solutions over another group, identify the bundle of benefits that respond to the

needs of a specific group of students (or customer segment), and how it may be similar to

existing solutions (or market offers) but proposes innovative added features non existing by

other providers (or competitors).

By the end of the workshop, students came to realize that their creative problem-solving

skills can be incorporated in an entrepreneurial setting, and that they are able to attain

additional skills that would allow them to bring their ideas to reality. Most students identified

issues related to mental health and self-care, enhancing the level of hands-on learning before

graduation, and incorporating more diverse learning opportunities to all programs available at

the college. The workshop connected existing course material to concepts of entrepreneurship

that can aid the students in taking their learning to solve real world problems. This goes against

the critique of entrepreneurship education triggering more neoliberalism in education, in that the

individual focuses only on maximizing their own happiness, and contributing to the increase of

inequality in class and race (Lackéus, 2017).

Capstone integrations.

Faculty members teaching capstone courses see much added value in having their

students work with real businesses on their capstone projects. It exposes the students to the

details of a company, the industry it works in, the customers it serves, and the competitive

atmosphere it functions within. It also gives the students the chance to contribute to the

company through the mandates of their capstone project, allowing the company to benefit from

the time and learning process of the students. For example, a group of students from the

Bachelor of Business Administration program were tasked with the creation of a business plan
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as part of their capstone project. The collaboration begins with the founder of the small business

presenting about their company, the problem it addresses, the product it provides and the target

market it serves. After being matched with student groups, the students then begin to conduct

an environmental scan of the industry and the actors within it, identifying competitors and the

differentiating features they provide. The collaboration continues throughout the academic term,

with the students conducting market research to learn more about the target customers of the

company, and analyzing the data gathered to measure the customers’ needs against the

product’s features. The collaboration ends with the students providing the company with a

business plan that identifies the summary of their findings, and suggestions that the company

can utilize moving forward.

The entrepreneurial education may seem obvious when collaborating with students from

a business focused program, but the same impact can be replicated with students from any

program. Other examples exist with students of programs in the Faculty of Applied Science and

Technology, who collaborated with startup ventures to create prototypes of a software that

utilize technology to find a home for stray dogs and cats. What the students gain from such

collaborations is the chance to take their learning from within the boundaries of a classroom,

and unleash it to the world through a startup business. They apply what they learn, gather and

apply feedback from businesses they are helping to impact, and witness results of their

collaboration. In the process, they are learning about their selves and what their strengths and

weaknesses are, getting exposure to the types of work they would be involved in as part of their

employment post-graduation, and problem solving and innovating throughout the process - a

demonstration of the six pan-Canadian global competencies put into action (Council of Ministers

of Education, 2019).

Co-op on the EDGE.

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The previous two examples discussed ways of bringing entrepreneurship education to

the classroom and integrating it with learning outcomes, outlining the benefits to students’

learning and the relevance to the six competencies. However, critics may still argue that this is

compelling the students to think and behave like entrepreneurs, imposing upon them arrays of

neoliberalism through making “entrepreneurship less about business enterprise and more a kind

of learned decision-making capacity useable in any and every context” (Newstadt, 2015). But

what if the decision to take part in entrepreneurship and entrepreneurial learning was left in the

students’ hands?

Co-op on the EDGE allows students to use their co-op term to work on a business idea

that interest them, while meeting the requirements to acquire a co-op credit. The students who

choose Co-op on the EDGE are taking the decision to spend an academic term exploring an

idea that brings together their interest in a specific area and the knowledge they acquired

through their academic program. They go through a set of workshops and training programs

that teach them how to take their idea from the ideation phase to creating a minimal viable

product by the end of the term. This co-op opportunity is unpaid, although students are given

the chance to pitch their ideas for a chance to win some funding. The ideas they work on are not

guaranteed success or growth to become a legally registered business, nor is that an

expectation of the program. The success from the opportunity, whether the idea pops or flops, is

the learning and experience gained of taking something from a mere idea captured in

someone’s mind, to a product that addresses a need faced by a group of individuals who may

benefit from having access to the solutions it provides. Through the process, students learn to

innovate and create, problem solve and think critically, collaborate with others, and

communicate to the public their creation and its potential. It demonstrates that entrepreneurial

education involves solving problems in a creative manner, including trial and error and
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experimenting with different solutions to the problem at hand, this making failure an expected

and accepted part of the learning process that the student goes through (Abualbasal, 2019).

Faculty members feedback.

“EDGE’s collaboration with SDNE capstones develops key entrepreneurial skills

identified as crucial for robot-proofing one’s career. The support offered by EDGE allows SDNE

students to carry their capstones past graduation and into the working world as incredible and

potentially profitable new ventures”, Simon Hood, Professor and Program Coordinator -

Software Development and Network Engineering (SDNE), Faculty of Applied Science and


“EDGE has provided a higher level of value for my entrepreneurship class, by making

students aware of various resources that are available to entrepreneurial minded individuals.

Since utilizing EDGE’s facility as an introductory visit to showcase what Sheridan College has to

offer students, and as the platform of the students’ business plan presentations, I have received

very positive feedback from students”, Fortunato Pitaro, Professor - Pilon School of Business.

“I believe that EDGE promotes fundamental career-long skills that every graduate needs

to have in today’s competitive environment. Entrepreneurship as a perspective and mind-set is

about the energy to pursue an initiative and work through a process to add value. The set of

skills and perspectives that EDGE facilitates are transferrable and applicable in all aspects of

the professional career of a student. It is always inspiring to participate in an EDGE event and

observe students engage and think about the possibilities”, Jose Rueda, Professor - Bachelor of

Game Design, Faculty of Animations, Arts and Design.

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This paper discussed how entrepreneurship education and entrepreneurial spaces in

higher education institutes enhance students’ employability skills through providing them with

transferable skills needed in a knowledge-based economy. Several similar characteristics exist

between maker spaces and entrepreneurial spaces in that they empower students to learn

through application, creating new things or innovating on uses of existing items. Entrepreneurial

skills allow students to be more creative, innovative and adaptive to whatever changes they are

faced with in the unexpected and complex technology driven future.

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