How to evaluate entrepreneurship education programs?

PhD candidate Torgeir Aadland at the Engage centre researches the field of venture creation programs. We had a chat with him to hear what venture creation programs are all about.

Aadland is one of the ten PhD candidates at the Engage centre. A PhD position involves both getting educated as a researcher and doing actual research, he explains.

Torgeir was a part of the team that wrote the application of the Engage centre, which resulted in this price.

–  What do you do as a PhD student at the Engage centre?

–  I started two years ago, and luckily I got the opportunity to join the team that wrote the application of the Engage centre. It was great fun deciding the guidelines for the centre that in the end was realized, Torgeir says.

The primary focus in his research is evaluation of entrepreneurship educations. Traditionally, the quality of such educations has been measured by the number of resulting startups. However, Torgeir explains, the vision of the NTNU School of Entrepreneurship (NSE) is to develop the world’s best business developers, who also will contribute in established businesses.

–  I have classified the different educations within entrepreneurship, and written two papers on that matter. Now I am looking into different measures for evaluating the quality of these educations. Me and another PhD student will compare the job situation of those with a degree from NSE to those who don’t have one. We have a small hypothesis that the NSE educated people tend to change their job more often.

–  What are venture creation programs? 

–  Such programs use startups as an educational tool towards entrepreneurship. NSE is a venture creation program. By creating their own startups, the students get experience and can put the theory they learn into practice. It is an action-based approach, Torgeir states.

– It is all about creating change agents. The society needs to be in a continuous development in order to be able to employ all the people living in it. For example, if Norway stays put in its established industries of oil and salmon while the other countries develop new and better methods, Norway would anyhow lose the competition.

–  What is your background before starting the PhD employment?

–  I started at the master’s degree program Industrial Economics and Technology Management. After three years I wanted to do something more action-based, so I applied for NSE. I have always felt creative, and I wanted to exploit all the ideas I had, Torgeir says and smiles.

The years at NSE resulted in the startup Voico, a business that aims at producing a microphone that absorbs the sound from a person speaking in a mobile phone, sparing everyone else from hearing the unilateral conversation. Voico is still going strong, but Torgeir found an interest in the scientific method in his last year at NSE.

–  When writing my master thesis I understood the fundamental idea of research and how it brings the world forward. Hopefully my contribution in the research field of entrepreneurship can help optimize the entrepreneurial education by yielding the correct evaluation tools.

Torgeir has written two papers about the classification of the different entrepreneur educations.

–  Why should students get a more conscious relationship to entrepreneurship?

–  I think many students are entrepreneurs without thinking about it. This applies to most of the student organizations. For instance, UKA is every other year a startup that begins with one entrepreneur gathering a team to build a festival almost from scratch.

Torgeir also mentions the student organization Revolve, which builds a formula race car every year, and the workshop Omega Verksted at NTNU as arenas where students display an entrepreneurial mindset. Whenever a student tries to do something new, he or she develops skills along the way that can be valuable for others.

–  It is important that students are able to see how their activity can make an impact on the world. Their competence can be used in many different contexts, which can make a business, an organization or a neighborhood become more sustainable. At the Engage centre we aim at giving students the tools that will help them think bigger so what they do can become important for many people.

 

Torgeir’s tips on how to get to know the entrepreneurial world:

  • The podcast “How I Built This with Guy Raz”: A podcast that includes interviews with entrepreneurs behind businesses like Instagram and AirBnB.
  • Shifter.no: Provides news about startups and innovative companies in Norway.
  • TrondheimTech: A podcast and a news blog about entrepreneurship in Trondheim.