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entrepreneurial education

Eloiza Savvidou, CEO, Junior Achievement Cyprus

Elisa Bosio, Secretary of the Board, Junior Achievement Cyprus


Dr. Nicos Peristianis, President of the Council, University of Nicosia

ABC of Business Andreas Koupparis, Chairman, CyBAN (Cyprus Business Angels Network) Andreas Papadopoulos, Manager, Group Strategy, Hellenic Bank, Chairman of the Board Constantinos Loizides, Chairman, Piraeus Bank (Cyprus)

Junior Achievement Cyprus, Board of Directors

How Junior Achievement Cyprus has taken entrepreneurial education into schools. By Chloe Panayides, Photography by Jo Michaelides

38 Gold the international investment, finance & professional services magazine of cyprus

the international investment, finance & professional services magazine of cyprus

Gold 39

entrepreneurial education


light of the rupturing of the island’s banking sector in March 2013 and the consequent overall economic fracture, both private and public stakeholders have been feverishly exploring the most fecund avenue for recovery. Will foreign investment be our saviour? Or is the impending extraction of natural gas reserves our greatest asset in moving forward? Andreas Papadopoulos, Manager Group Strategy, Hellenic Bank has other ideas. He believes that the ABC of laying solid foundations for future sustainable growth is as simple as 1) recognising that the human mind is society’s fundamental resource; 2) allowing for entrepreneurial education amongst the youth of today who will, invariably, be our leaders of tomorrow; and 3) permitting a forum for the practical application of this newly learned know-how. Papadopoulos met with Gold to describe the ins and outs of the Junior Achievement Cyprus initiative that is growing in prominence day by day. “Did you know,” Andreas Papadopoulos asks with a smile, “that Cyprus, statistically, has the highest number of companies per household in the eurozone by far, com-

There is a clear and unmistakable link between entrepreneurial education and success

pared to the latter’s average?” Papadopoulos was not exaggerating. Cyprus’ percentage registers at 19.5%, compared with the average of 11.1%. “It’s almost twice the average,” Papadopoulos asserts, “We obviously like being our own bosses!” Elaborating, he explains: “As Cypriots, we are driven to have our own companies. I think it’s built into our DNA. Being an island, trading and business is part of our nature. Any small country must adequately promote itself, and this often comes in the form of asking the questions ‘What can I do?’, ‘What can I make?’, ‘What can I develop?’ and so on.” And yet, considering the number of businesses already set up, Papadopoulos believes that the most vital questions we should be asking ourselves now are: ‘How good a job are we doing?’ and ‘Are our businesses set up in a structured and sustainable manner?’ “Unfortunately, structure is lacking throughout Cyprus, from our education and health systems, to our real estate development; even our laws and regulations lack structure so as not to be as implementable as they should be,” he says. Untangling the impedimental knots already in existence is an arduous task; conversely, preventing the permeation of the same mistakes is not only possible but a responsibility that all stakeholders should be willing to bear. Junior Achievement Cyprus (JA Cyprus) was officially founded in 2011. “Through JA Cyprus,” Papadopoulos says, “we are laying the building blocks, building the foundation and erecting the framework, nurturing the business professionals and leaders of tomorrow.” Here, he pauses. “I think it best we go back to the beginning.” The beginning actually dates back some 100 years, when Junior Achievement was established in the US. A means of allowing for entrepreneurial education within the otherwise stringent and somewhat onedimensional school curriculum, the Junior Achievement initiative has spread worldwide. JA Cyprus falls under the auspices of Junior Achievement Europe (JA-YE Europe), with Caroline Jenner, CEO, JA-YE Europe actually serving on the Board of Directors of the Cyprus faction. “Students are given – via practical challenges – the opportunity to learn about how

40 Gold the international investment, finance & professional services magazine of cyprus

to strike the fine balance between innovative thinking and well-thought out planning, allowing for a structured, sustainable and successful business model,” Papadopoulos explains. “In essence, teams of students develop their own businesses, having to consider costs, sourcing, how to brand the product, how to promote it – all angles of business planning and execution must be given thought and developed. The students even take on specific roles, such as marketing manager or human resource officer.” Having been introduced into Cyprus in 2009, the programme itself has, until now, been a work in progress. “For the first three years, we ran ‘Innovation Camps’: a single day of entrepreneurship, through which some 125 students aged 16-17 gathered at the University of Nicosia to address a specific challenge. “Students were split into random teams of five and, within that single day, they had to develop a solution to a previously unknown challenge from a business direction.” And what might these challenges look like? “In 2012, we posed the question: ‘How can we tackle the economic crisis?’ The ideas generated were phenomenal. The winning team that year decided to address the reduced economic vitality of households by making a branded clothing line from reused clothing, resulting in unique produce that can either be bought, or exchanged for old items of attire.” Following three successful camps – and perseverance on the part of the board of directors and other relevant stakeholders – JA Cyprus has flourished over the past year, finally entering the school system in September 2013. Papadopoulos elaborates: “To have been able to evolve JA Cyprus to the next level, we required greater commitment from the Ministry of Education (which we received), as well as funding (as this project is driven purely by private funds). “Thanks to our sponsors, we were able to set up the programme for this year as a more permanent and prevalent fixture of children’s school lives. “Initially, in close cooperation with the Ministry of Education, we invited the heads of schools island-wide to meet with us, through which we presented the project. We asked them to send, on a volunteer basis – and I must stress this, as the time

A small investment can truly give back immeasurably and effort given by the teachers is invaluable – teachers who would be appropriate and willing to participate. “The positive response was overwhelming, which is really testament to the high calibre of our teachers and their willingness to commit themselves to the future of Cyprus.” Papadopoulos describes how, prior to the commencement of the school year, JA Cyprus brought trainers from abroad to develop material with the teachers, and to guide them on how to deliver the theory of the project, encouraging, thereafter, its practical application. In January, a ‘refresher’ course was held, with strong support from JA Europe. “Now, we have approximately 250 students representing 25 schools – from the public, private, and vocational sectors – taking part. It’s an absolutely inclusive programme and is not subject-specific: business plans can span both the arts and sciences, from optimising the utilisation of Cyprus’ plethora of fresh fruit, to devising security systems, making resizable shoes, organising treasure hunts, and publishing a school magazine. “An event scheduled for May 2 will be our ‘open day’ and the first National Company of the Year competition, through which the students will have the opportunity to present their projects to the public. Several categories have been established to recognise the accomplishments of the teams, but the overall winning team will have the chance to represent Cyprus in Estonia through the JA-YE Company of Year Competition, due to take place in Estonia on July 22-25. “Our May 2 event is already garnering great attention, with the Minister of En-

We are nurturing the business professionals and leaders of tomorrow

ergy, Commerce, Tourism, and Industry, the Ambassador of the US in Cyprus, the British High Commissioner and members from the Chamber of Commerce and Industry already set to attend. Due to the recent Government reshuffle, we’re still awaiting confirmation of whether the current Minister of Education will attend.” Beyond the practical aspect of the project, Papadopoulos explains: “Students are encouraged to consider such qualities as time management, clarity and succinctness in presenting, and working effectively as a team.” Teamwork, it transpires, constitutes the crux of JA Cyprus, precisely because, according to Papadopoulos, it facilitates reaching the pinnacle of professional success. “Whilst teamwork is crucial to success in the professional sphere, there is little opportunity for nurturing it within the school environment,” Papadopoulos begins. “Think about it: exams are individual, and exams are, almost exclusively, the mark of a student’s success at school. The mantra follows: I learn, I study, I pass, and I go to university. “Therefore, the mindset of the school environment is based upon the individual. Moreover, as the education system requires a simple and efficient method of assessment – that is, examinations – most exam questions have only a single answer, which is a stark departure from the real world. “And so it is that the fundamentals of JA Cyprus develop thus: teamwork, set against creative, innovative thinking, which allows for more than one answer.” Concurrent to the promotion and nurturing of these ideas at Junior Achievement level, the European Commission has delineated the core driver of education in the coming years as being ‘entrepreneurial education’, with the possibility of developing a framework accordingly to introduce this into the national curricula all member states coming closer to reality. “At its core, there is a clear and unmistakable link between entrepreneurial education and success,” Papadopoulos states. “Through JA Cyprus, we are training the future employees of Cyprus’ business world. JA Cyprus is dual in nature in that

the relevant theory is taught, and thereafter students are afforded the opportunity to apply this practically: we allow for not just the know-how, but the do-how. This is rarely afforded prior to entering the professional world.” And what is Papadopoulos’ view regarding the responsibility of private stakeholders being dynamically involved in the nurturing of school children, preparing them for their professional life to come? “It’s paramount. Ultimately, JA Cyprus has been founded by individuals, not companies. I, for example, am involved both in a personal capacity and as a representative of Hellenic Bank. “One entity that has continuously supported the project is the University of Nicosia. It has been a main point of action, hosting all of our innovation camps. “Besides providing money, the sponsors of JA Cyprus (for 2013-2014, these are Piraeus Bank, Deloitte, M.S. Jacovides, Metro, Hellenic Bank, Bionic, Helix Business Incubator, Microsoft, the US Embassy, and the University of Nicosia) also supply mentors, approximately two per school: managers, for example, with great business experience, who offer their guidance and assistance to both students and teachers.” When asked as to how JA Cyprus may now grow, having successfully penetrated the school system, Papadopoulos explains: “Our plans for the future include extending this programme to primary schools and middle schools, as well as universities. “However, we want it to be a controlled expansion, to keep the quality high. Initially, within the next year, I foresee us expanding the programme to more schools representing our current targeted age bracket, as well as instigating the university programme. We also plan on holding more one-day innovation camps.” Growth, Papadopoulos explains, may also come in the form of an expanded JA Cyprus team. “By offering the right support, others may join the board, which is responsible for setting the guidelines; sponsors, meanwhile, fund the programme and provide mentors. “We’re even looking for sponsors to lend their name to a specific award in the national competition. We fully welcome participation from the business community: a small investment can truly give back immeasurably.”

Junior Achievement Cyprus  

The ABC of business education in Cyprus

Junior Achievement Cyprus  

The ABC of business education in Cyprus