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Entrepreneurship 15 Dec 2017

Educating entrepreneurs: key to the digital economy

In the era of the digital economy, it’s crucial that entrepreneurs acquire the financial knowledge and skills needed to develop innovative projects with long term sustainability. That´s why the focus on education, and in particular financial education, should be widened to include entrepreneurship, especially among young people.

This is the vision we have at BBVA, where education is one of the strategic areas of our Corporate Social Responsibility policy. Traditionally, we have focused our efforts on developing equal access to education and to educational quality; but now our focus is on financial education and entrepreneurship. A good example is the Center for Financial Education and Capability promoted this year by BBVA, whose Advisory Board I have the privilege to chair.

An entrepreneur needs innovative ideas, but that alone is not enough. Knowing how to read a balance sheet, choose the right financial instrument for your company´s situation, or how to carry out financial prospecting, are basic skills for every entrepreneur. Also, financial education promotes other qualities, such as effort, perseverance, planning capability, resistance to stress, all of which are essential to starting a business and making it grow.

An entrepreneur needs innovative ideas, but that alone is not enough. Knowing how to read a balance sheet, choose the right financial instrument for your company´s situation, or how to carry out financial prospecting, are basic skills for every entrepreneur”

These were the main messages that I expressed during my speech on November 23 at the First European Business-Education Summit in Brussels. The event was organized to announce the results of the Pact for Youth, a commitment between European companies and institutions begun in 2015, to improve the employability of young people.

The summit, which was created as an ongoing initiative, couldn’t have gotten off to a more brilliant start. There were 650 attendees and a solid participation by the three principal European institutions, all led by their presidents, as well as several members of the European Parliament.

Apart from the presentation of the results of the Pact, the event featured panel discussions on three topics: how to develop business-education alliances; how to make vocational training as valued as university studies; and how to integrate entrepreneurship into conventional training. I had the honor of taking part in the panel that addressed the latter challenge. It was a great opportunity to share ideas and to reflect on the role of entrepreneurship in young people’s training.

BBVA has made a great effort to design, develop and implement financial education and training programs for entrepreneurs and students of all types. In the last eight years, the bank has invested nearly 70 million euros in these programs, which have benefitted nine million people.  For us, this is a great achievement; however, I am convinced that public-private alliances at the national, European and international level are an essential tool to promote financial education and training in business skills.

As Valdis Dombrovskis pointed out during his presentation, “a commitment by public institutions and private organizations to work together is the key to success.” In this regard, I believe there are many reasons for European institutions to join forces and work with the private sector to promote training in financial knowledge and skills. In the first place, to give consumers the necessary tools to take informed financial decisions. In the second place, because it is the key to the success of sustainable entrepreneurship in Europe.

There are many reasons for European institutions to join forces and work with the private sector to promote training in financial knowledge and skills”

The President of the European Parliament himself, Antonio Tajani, pointed out during the opening of the event that “investment in education and entrepreneurship is not only necessary for the improvement of employment, but crucial to competitivity in the region.” For this reason, European institutions should demand, forcefully and formally, greater collaboration between the different actors.

The European Union’s lack of jurisdiction in the field of education should not prevent cooperation in financial education. It could materialize in the exchange of knowledge and best practices, in campaigns to raise awareness of the importance of financial education in peoples’ lives, in the standardization of training methodologies or the organization of events such as the one that took place last week, or even more specialized ones, in the field of financial education and training.

José Manuel González-Páramo is BBVA Executive Member of the Board, Head of Global Economics, Regulation and Public Affairs, since 2013

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