Prioritizing the Entrepreneurial Pipeline: 4 Ecosystem Actions to Foster Youth Entrepreneurial Interest and Intention

For decades, West Virginia has faced significant population decline. Over the past 10 years, we’ve lost 59,000 residents – 3.3% of our total population. Citing a lack of economic and recreational opportunity as key barriers to staying and working in West Virginia, young adults (ages 18-30) account for most of this outmigration. Combined with the acceleration of worker shortages across the state due to COVID-19, this trend poses a significant concern to our state’s small business backbone, which makes up 96% of the economy. With many small business owners in the state approaching retirement and few viable successors with technical and entrepreneurial skills available to replace them, an emphasis on support for K-12 entrepreneurship education must be prioritized.

“I can’t even spell entrepreneurship.”

I can’t tell you how many workshops I’ve been in with students where this is the first comment. Before we can build capacity, it’s necessary for us to break down barriers. At The EdVenture Group, we and our partners focus on four, scaffolded priorities in the delivery of entrepreneurship education programming:

  • Entrepreneurial Mindset (behaviors and attitudes including opportunity recognition, failing forward, creativity and innovation, etc.) 
  • Entrepreneurial Aptitudes (tools and strategies including design thinking, iteration and experimentation, business model canvasing, etc.)
  • Entrepreneurial Intentions (career readiness and goal setting including passion inventories, self-management strategies, etc.) 
  • Entrepreneurial Experiences (project-based and experiential learning including minimum viable product testing, prototyping, soft venture launches, etc.)

How do we get involved?

Enter the state’s flourishing entrepreneurship ecosystem. This network of stakeholders represents an invested, knowledgeable collection of organizations that can significantly benefit West Virginia’s youth. Through partnership with the West Virginia Department of Education, we’re building policy-based priorities in entrepreneurship, including the launch of the state’s first formal entrepreneurship pathway. As this pathway gains momentum, there are opportunities for the ecosystem to engage at all levels. 

Four Actions for Ecosystem Members:

  1. Reach out to school systems to serve as a guest speaker or mentor for students across subject areas to increase their knowledge of diverse opportunities in entrepreneurship in the state.  
  2. Expand your educational offerings (resources, workshops, courses, etc.) to include K-12 educators and students. If possible, consider offering a “freemium” business model for this population to reduce barriers.
  3. Create strategic partnerships with school systems to identify local growth areas in entrepreneurship, support career readiness priorities for students, and offer intrapreneurial project-based learning experiences.
  4. Offer internship opportunities and remote educational opportunities at your organization as part of WVDE’s Classroom2Career navigator. 



To learn more about our current efforts, check out The EdVenture Group’s Classroom2Career Summit highlight blog or contact me directly at [email protected].


About the Author

Mrs. Amber Ravenscroft creates, delivers, and manages innovative programming for The EdVenture Group , with a specific focus on entrepreneurship and workforce development.  Amber serves in a leadership capacity within many entrepreneurial ecosystem organizations. To date, her leadership and support on a variety of entrepreneurship and innovation initiatives have impacted more than 50,000 students across Appalachia and beyond.