Changing the world
According to Bpifrance1, the number of companies created in France by under 30s doubled between 2009 and 2020. Today, more than one in two young people wants to start a company, according to a survey conducted by OpinionWay2 for France Active. The survey also reveals that 65% of young people want to start a company that will change the world. Entrepreneurship has therefore become a genuine trend for Trend them. “An entire generation wants to commit to something,” said Alain Asquin, the French coordinator for student entrepreneurship, who notes that societal commitment has become the starting point for setting up businesses. “Fifteen years ago, people thought about their offer and then made sure that it would line up with the environment or society. Now, an offer is created because we want to defend certain values,” he explained. Driven by a desire to have a positive impact on society and consequently confronted with complex issues, young people need to receive training, but also support in setting up a business.
Receiving training to tackle challenges
“We must really recognise the huge challenge these young people are taking on. Their projects are attractive and hugely interesting, but their challenges are particularly complex ones to tackle. This means that their ecosystem should be extremely well intentioned and help them launch their business,” said Alain Asquin. The Pépite France network helps students build and develop business projects as part of their education, whilst allowing them to develop their skills. Other structures are also in place. “People should be encouraged to tap into organisations such as Les Déterminés, which gives young people all the keys they need to start a business and keep it going,” continued Perle Perriet, the founder of She Can Code, a start-up that organises computer coding workshops for 13 to 18-year-old girls. Attuned to this training need, higher education institutions have also begun adapting their programmes. At the École des Mines Paris, “entrepreneurship is no longer optional for several dozen students; it is now part of their curriculum,” said Valérie Archambault, Deputy Director of research in charge of industrial partnerships. “The evolution is in line with the expectations of students and companies, who are asking us to train entrepreneurial engineers,” she explained.
More men than women
Despite training courses and mechanisms that are set up to help students start a company, “There are still too few women in business,” added Valérie Archambault. While more young women now graduate, they are in the minority amongst young entrepreneurs (60% of men for 40% of women). Although the gap is narrowing, with increasingly more women starting up a company, obstacles remain, noted Alain Asquin. “As long as their idea is unstructured, they do not get started, while boys tend to jump in and see how things develop. We must therefore work on their relationship to risk and remove the pressure for success,” he recommended.
To recruit young talent, companies must adapt
Today, students from higher education institutions no longer dream of becoming the boss of a listed company. They are looking for meaning, and do not want to sacrifice their personal and professional life for a job that does not have a positive impact. They long for commitment, and unlike previous generations, they do not have any qualms about leaving a job that does not satisfy them. “Their attachment to a company is sometimes not as strong as their attachment to a project,” said Alain Asquin. This is therefore a major challenge for companies who want to attract—and retain—young talent on the lookout for meaning. “Meaning is essential when recruiting talent. As a large group, we must work on our raison d’être, on a common objective that will benefit everyone. It is by being committed to low carbon, to the energy transition, and by being a supplier of sustainable development solutions for industrial companies, local authorities, and citizens that a company such as ENGIE can recruit talent,” explained Stéphane Quéré, Director of Ecosystems and ENGIE Research & Innovation.
A narrower partition between start-ups and companies
Businesses have been transformed by the wave of start-ups. “Boundaries are becoming much more permeable. People in large corporations now work with start-ups,” said Valérie Archambault. “We are increasingly working in ecosystem environments and partnerships,” confirmed Stéphane Quéré. “ENGIE works with so many start-ups that I can’t give you a figure; it has become a reflex,” he continued. This proximity has changed company work methods. At ENGIE, "there are [now] intrapreneurship programmes that allow employees to develop start-up-like projects," explained Stéphane Quéré. “It is therefore possible to be an entrepreneur within a company,” he concluded.
So, is starting a business the new Holy Grail of young people?
For Alain Asquin, this is not a passing trend. “It is quite structural and deep, so while this is not a new Holy Grail, it is nonetheless a quest for young generations,” he said. Perle Perriet acquiesced that, “It really is a personal quest, an approach that can help many young people find out who they are and develop projects.” Stéphane Quéré concluded that, “Regardless of their background, these younger generations will not have wasted their time! ”
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