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NFTE’s Entrepreneurial Mindset Index: an innovative approach to measuring non-cognitive skill growth

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Jason Delgatto
Jason Delgatto   NFTE

The Entrepreneurial Mindset Index is featured in Youth Business International’s recent research Entrepreneurial soft skills for the future as an example of an innovative approach for measuring soft skills. The EMI is being used in schools in the United States and abroad.

In today’s innovation economy — with needs and opportunities evolving faster and more fluidly than ever before — our youth need a mindset that equips them to recognize opportunities, take initiative, and innovate in the face of challenges. With economists predicting that the jobs of tomorrow don’t even exist today, it is becoming increasingly clear that entrepreneurial skills are skills for life. Research also suggests that an entrepreneurial mindset is not a fixed trait, but rather a set of skills and behaviors that can be taught, practiced and cultivated and that having an entrepreneurial mindset lays a foundation for success throughout life. Moreover, according to the World Economic Forum, one in three U.S. employers are seeking entrepreneurial experience in its hires.

NFTE (Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship) is an organization that believes developing an entrepreneurial mindset in every student is the solution and has pioneered approaches to both activating and measuring the growth of an entrepreneurial mindset in students. NFTE defines an entrepreneurial mindset as a set of skills that enable people to identify and make the most of opportunities, overcome and learn from setbacks, and succeed in a variety of settings.

An entrepreneurial mindset is valued by employers, boosts educational attainment and performance, and is crucial for creating new businesses. For this reason, NFTE has developed the framework for an entrepreneurial mindset, drawing on our depth of experience teaching entrepreneurship to young people. Working with researchers at the Educational Testing Service (ETS), and with signature support from Ernst & Young, we also designed the Entrepreneurial Mindset Index (EMI) to measure mastery in eight core domains that we have identified as critical to entrepreneurial thinking. These eight domains include 21st-century skills that are sought out by employers (i.e., critical thinking and problem-solving, creativity and innovation, communication and collaboration), as well as important transferrable behaviors that are unique to the field of entrepreneurship (i.e., opportunity recognition and comfort with risk).

The EMI serves as a resource for students and teachers in NFTE programs and is embedded into the NFTE curriculum. Students start the course by taking the pre-EMI survey that captures their level of confidence and decision-making effectiveness in eight domains. Students then receive a personalized report of their entrepreneurial mindset upon completion of the EMI. Based on their top three self-report domains, students can learn about their EMI archetype and explore other archetypes as they begin their entrepreneurial journey. Students create a tailored action plan based on these results. From here, students progress through the course with every topic aimed at activating one of the eight EMI domains and offer students an opportunity for modeling, practice, and reflection of these skills. Finally, students can take the EMI again at the end of the program to reflect on their progress throughout the NFTE experience.

In addition to developing this tool to help students maximize their entrepreneurial mindsets, NFTE views the EMI as a tool that can be an innovative approach for schools looking for ways to measure their own noncognitive skill growth. Current education assessments measure cognitive skills like reading, writing and mathematical competencies, but do not offer the opportunity to measure growth in noncognitive skillsets. Our hope is that EMI will become a popular tool to develop entrepreneurial awareness and build upon the entrepreneurial skills and behaviors that instill career-readiness.

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