NCU adds course in entrepreneurship

Northern Caribbean University (NCU), which has won the National Business Model Competition (NBMC) for each of the four years since the competition began, has added a course in entrepreneurship to its academic offerings.

The one-credit course was added at the start of the school year, last August.

“Northern Caribbean University, within its limited means, is fully committed to nation building and assisting its students in becoming entrepreneurs… The president and the administration plan to do more, and are unswervingly supporting the efforts by offering each student, starting from this school year, the opportunity to take at least one course in entrepreneurship,” dean of the College of Business and Management Dr Audley Eccles said in an address at the launch of this year's competition, on Monday, February 12.

The university currently offers entrepreneurial guidance to interested students and members of the Small and Medium sized Enterprise sector from the wider community through its Morris Entrepreneurship Centre.

The dean explained that the Manchester-based university will be seeking to engage with partners to enhance its facilities and restructure activities in a bid to enhance the training.

“Going forward, the university recognises the need for a new building to expand its entrepreneurial offerings, and is actively seeking an off-campus site to house its incubators and accelerators, through partnership with the Government, private sector, private individuals and the university. The president is of the firm belief that the university will, in the very near future, erect this building,” Eccles said.

He continued: “At that point, the president will reorganise the activities of the Morris Entrepreneurship Centre, in keeping with best practices, to allow it to truly function as an integral part of the university-wide outreach activities for students and the communities it serves.”

The National Business Model Competition started in 2014. It encourages entrepreneurship at the tertiary level and allows students at NCU, The University of the West Indies, University of Technology, Jamaica, and Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts to test their business concepts using the national business canvas.

“Preparation for this competition takes our students through robust experiential learning, where they learn the rigours of entrepreneurship and the importance of testing and validating a business model at the earliest possible stages,” Eccles remarked.

To this end, Eccles, in his presentation, hailed the NBMC as “more than a competition”, reasoning that “it's an opportunity to introduce students across all disciplines to entrepreneurship and, more importantly, to entrepreneurship as a real and viable career option.

“It's about igniting that entrepreneurial spirit that we seem to have as a people and nurturing it, and showing students the possibilities that exist through entrepreneurship. As a result of initiatives like yours, I am certain the number of youth entrepreneurs have been steadily increasing nationally,” Eccles added.

To support his point, the dean pointed to the 2013 Statistical Insitute of Jamaica-International Labour Organization study titled Labour Market Transition of Young Women and Men in Jamaica which indicated that 26.5 per cent of all young students want to work for themselves. The NBMC, he argued, by exposing students from various disciplines to entrepreneurship, helps them to create their own employment and employ others while creating wealth.

“Youth unemployment is still far too high, and our students, as well as students from the other institutions, are very much part of the statistics,” Eccles noted, adding, “…and it does not follow that they must 'seek a job' after graduating from university. No! They now have the opportunity to create their own employment.”

Still, NCU believes that the competition goes beyond podium places. Rather, he said the true measure of success of the NBMC is whether, after the competition has ended, students commercialise their entrepreneurial ideas and launch their business ventures.

“Over the last four years our students have accomplished much more than just winning competitions, and many past participants have now become entrepreneurs and are making a significant impact. Many of them have registered companies, are creating employment for others, and have expanded or developed new product lines, which solidifies our claims that this is much more than a competition. Our students are innovators, they are finding their niche and making an impact right here in Jamaica, contributing to nation building,” Eccles told the gathering.

For example, the 2014 champion and the winner of the 2015 edition of the Jamaica Observer's Mogul in the Making, Herboo, began as a manufacturer of organic shampoo, but has recently expanded its product line to include organic hair and body oil, and has begun exporting to the United States, Japan, and territories in the Caribbean.

“This year, our students continue to develop a wide range of products and services that seek to deal with real life challenges and problems that not only affect us here in Jamaica, but globally... Indeed, this generation of young people is solution-oriented and with the right support and resources they can make meaningful changes to their lives, to this country and to the world,” Eccles said.

The semi-finals of the NBMC take place on March 22, with the finals set for the following day. Fourteen teams of student entrepreneurs will compete for cash prizes of up to $4 million and an all-expense-paid trip for the winner to represent Jamaica at the International Business Model Competition.