Importance of Entrepreneurship

Unemployment is one of the major driving forces behind social unrest, rising crime rate, mental health issues and even terrorist activities in Pakistan. The current unemployment rate in the country is 6.3 per cent, according to Pakistan Economic Survey 2021-22.

The unemployment rate of university graduates is comparatively higher than the national average, which is expected to rise in the coming years. The main reasons for this high unemployment rate are related to the structure of the industry and the limited number of jobs that the commercial entities can provide to the graduates.

Apart from such a general lack of jobs, university graduates also face skills gap. Pakistan needs a sustained 7-8pc growth rate in its gross domestic product (GDP), if not more, to drag itself out of the current inertia. As innovation and entrepreneurship are believed to be the key drivers of growth, the country’s focus should be on innovation-based approaches to achieve the objective of high growth trajectory.

Therefore, there is a dire need for transforming academic knowledge into entrepreneurship by systematically supporting entrepreneurial activities of students and graduates in order to create jobs for not only themselves, but for others as well. The government realises that the linkages between universities and industry could boost this potential and, hence, encourages and supports the establishment of such links.

The Higher Education Commission (HEC) also recognises the need for entrepreneurial activities that could create viable businesses leading to employment opportunities. To support the entrepreneurial spirit in higher education institutions (HEIs), the HEC has started supporting universities in establishing business incubation centres (BICs), in which early-stage business ideas are selected to assist young minds to transform their ideas into successful entrepreneurial endeavours.

So far, the HEC has established as many as 30 BICs across the country. Further, the government has started different programmes for improving employment opportunities for youth, such as the Youth Entrepreneurship Scheme and many others. Being an important economic partner of Pakistan, the European Union (EU) is also carrying out a project, Transforming Academic Knowledge to Develop Entrepreneurial Universities in Pakistan (TAKE-UP), in an attempt to transform academic knowledge into entrepreneurship. The total volume of the project is £1 million, and it is already functional in certain universities.

The project has been divided into 10 work packages; kick-off and self-assessment; strategic action planning; establishing of fablabs; development of training and teaching material on entrepreneurial skills; professionalising entrepreneurial coaching; training and certifying entrepreneurial coaches (train-the-trainer); development of a TAKE-UP network; dissemination, visibility and exploitation; quality management; and project management.

The project aims at uplifting the potential of Pakistani HEIs in the area of entrepreneurial culture, especially the development of entrepreneurial skills in students by improving the coaching process of students, researchers and alumni with strong entrepreneurial intentions.

All other HEIs should also emphasise and try to transform academic knowledge into entrepreneurial universities to overcome increasing unemployment and social unrest in order to pull the country out of the lingering economic crisis.

DR KHALID IQBAL & DR TAHIR RASHID

GUJRAT

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