Rural Entrepreneurship Programme goes local

Q&A: Professor Suzi Jarvis
Rural Entrepreneurship Programme goes local

Professor Suzi Jarvis, founding director of the Innovation Academy, says that a lack of ‘on-the-ground support’ is hampering rural entrepreneurship and job creation in local communities.

“It is for this reason that we have developed our Rural Entrepreneurship Programme, which will be delivered within the communities who will benefit most from it.

Our first course commenced in Galway in September, and the second will commence in Clonmel on Nov 5,” she said.

* Why is rural entrepreneurship so important in Ireland?

>>Ireland is still a rural country with 72% of our population living predominantly in rural regions, as compared to the EU average of 22%, or 7% for Switzerland.

If we are to create a sustainable economy and a stable society for Ireland, then we need to provide ‘on-the-ground’ supports for people in rural communities to create ideas, spot opportunities, and to develop enterprises which will support local employment and wealth creation.

* Is there much leeway for entrepreneurs to create jobs in rural Ireland?

>>Absolutely. There are significant untapped resources in rural communities that have the potential to deliver jobs.

If we look at the UK, for example, 31% of farm enterprises have diversified into other areas, while in Ireland, it is only 2%.

We need to successfully integrate entrepreneurial education into these communities, and facilitate those in rural areas to take a fresh look at their resources, and examine how they can best harness them.

This is why the Innovation Academy UCD is taking the Rural Entrepreneurship Programme into the local communities who will benefit most from it.

* Who will deliver the Rural Entrepreneurship Programme?

>>The programme will be delivered by, among others, Roscommon entrepreneur Brendan Allen of Castlemine farm, and Galway’s Ronan Byrne of ‘The Friendly Farmer’, who have worked to transform their own experiences of starting a rural enterprise into an action-based learning programme.

They will also mentor participants over the duration of the programme.

* How long is the course, are there exams at the end of it?

>>The Rural Entrepreneurship Programme is delivered over 18 weeks. There are no exams, or lecturers.

Through continuous assessment, participants will learn by trying, failing and trying again, in a fun and supportive atmosphere with active entrepreneurs.

Participants will be awarded a Certificate in Rural Entrepreneurship from University College Dublin at the end of the course.

* What are the course fees?

>>The programme is free for Springboard candidates, including previously self-employed or struggling self-employed people who are looking for a sustainable income. We also accept students on a fee paying basis (fees are €3,000 for EU students), and have secured 30% grant assistance for local students.

* What qualifications or educational achievements are needed for course applicants?

>>This is a level-7 course, so students who have taken the Leaving Certificate can apply.

Mature students (aged over 20) who did not complete the Leaving Certificate can also apply, and will be assessed based on their motivation and entrepreneurial endeavour to date.

* Do Innovation Academy entrepreneurial courses create successful graduates?

>>Yes. Through the HEA Springboard programme, we are educating 535 job-seekers in innovation, entrepreneurship and enterprise.

This has been a highly successful programme, with a 92% completion rate to date, and 64% of participants going on to employment or self-employment.

Entrepreneurship in its broadest sense is an individual’s ability to turn ideas into action, and the true definition of an entrepreneur is of an individual who wants to make a change, to their own circumstances or to those around them.

Some entrepreneurs will start companies and create employment in their communities.

Some will instigate change within larger organisations, or at a societal level, while for others it may be about giving them the confidence and skills that will make them employable in an existing company.

* At what centres will the Rural Entrepreneurship Programmes take place?

>>The Rural Entrepreneurship Programme which is currently being delivered in Galway will commence in Clonmel on Nov 5.

An information day is being held in the Park Hotel, Clonmel on Oct 29, 9am-5pm. Mullingar and Letterkenny will roll out in 2014.

* Where can I get more information?

>>Please visit the www.innovators.ie website, email to ia.springboard@ucd.ie or call Josephine at 01-7162049.

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