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Entrepreneurs Needed To Keep Rural Youth At Home

The majority of middle- and high-school-age rural youths would like to stay at or return home in the future, but only one-third say an adult has encouraged them to make their community a more attractive place.

That's one of the findings the Center for Rural Entrepreneurship at the Rural Policy Research Institute found after surveying more than 25,000 students about their communities, education, career goals, and attitudes during the past seven years.

The Lincoln, Neb.,-based center reported that nearly half of rural youths surveyed want to start their own businesses rather than work for someone, and one of the center's core beliefs is that entrepreneurship development is a necessary component of rural economic development.

Craig Schroeder, the senior fellow for youth engagement at the center, wrote an article for The Daily Yonder Web site on this issue, and he cites four key ways communities can develop and nurture young entrepreneurs:
• Interactive entrepreneurship education;
• Supportive community environment;
• Peer networking, and
• Pathways from education to opportunity.

The Daily Yonder is a rural news Web site published by the Center for Rural Strategies.

The article goes on to describe each area in detail. One of the biggest school-related factors, interactive entrepreneurship education, involves creating successful youth entrepreneurship programs that are built on a quality curriculum with business-minded teachers who engage and develop students' talents.

But many rural schools don't have the resources for a class dedicated to entrepreneurship, and it can be difficult for students to fit that kind of class into their busy schedule.

"Incorporating entrepreneurship into an existing class such as accounting, industrial arts, or consumer science has been a solution to this constraint in many of the schools we work with," according to the article. "Other options have included after-school programs and entrepreneurship summer camps."

Another factor, supportive community environment, tied into schools, too. Specifically, the article said towns should become real-life learning labs for students to practice information learned in a classroom.

The article wrapped up with a stern warning for rural residents:

"However, unless rural communities with declining and aging populations succeed in attracting more entrepreneurial young people, their long-term futures are threatened."

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