The Austrian Federal Economic Chamber's role in promoting the Entrepreneurial Learning

Friederike Soezen, Policy Advisor in the Educational Policy Department of the Austrian Federal Economic Chamber

Small and medium sized enterprises are the backbone of the economy in many European Member States. There is no healthy economy without strong SMEs. One good example of representing its members is the Austrian Federal Economic Chamber (WKO - Wirtschaftskammer Österreich).

The Chamber is a representative of its combined membership of enterprises, ranging from sole traders, to incorporated companies with large workforces, is a significant and committed contributor to the economic, social and educational policy debates in Austria. The cross sectoral Social partnership in Austria is viewed as a unique strength. 

The demographic challenges of an ageing society in combination with an increasingly insecure job market has convinced us in WKO that it is of crucial importance to embed and develop entrepreneurial competences throughout the Austrian education system, both at formal and informal levels. We believe that in order to maintain an effective balance of employment and economic activity between the public and private sectors and self-employment, it is essential to make entrepreneurship attractive to all age groups and to young  people in particular.

Since 1995 WKO has had a strong commitment to foster and support entrepreneurial learning initiatives through collaboration and support of the JUNIOR Company programme and a dedicated career counselling services for students in transition from lower secondary to upper secondary education with a strong focus on VET within the dual training system. More than 36.000 students have participated in the JUNIOR company programme and more than ten thousands of students make use of the Chambers’ counselling services annually.

In 2004  The Chambers' President, Christoph Leitl initiated a modular entrepreneurship training programme for upper secondary academic and VET schools, the Entrepreneur's Skills Certificate ( The ESC® provides understanding of economic basics and entrepreneurial competencies. More than 67.500 students and young adults have participated in ESC® online tests in Austria and abroad. ESC® certificates are currently in great demand by business and the school system as well. An entrepreneurial mind-set and well established knowledge and competencies about economic relations are of vital concern to business locations, to companies, to educational institutions.

More recently WKO has sought through its latest initiative, the Entrepreneurial Skills Pass TM, to consolidate and accredit the work undertaken by students on  the more practical based JUNIOR company programme (  The programme combines modules of the Entrepreneur's Skills Certificate with the JUNIOR Company programme offered to support entrepreneurial education at schools. This is an outstanding   example of a working relationship between business and the education system. It is hoped that students having experienced the ESP will progress further to enhance their knowledge and skills in entrepreneurship through continued engagement and study. 

ESP includes a full-year in-school mini-company experience; a self-assessment of entrepreneurial competences; an examination of business, economic and financial knowledge and the possibility to access further opportunities offered by small and large businesses, top higher institutions and international organisations across Europe. ESP is a certification that students can add to their CV and use to pursue further education, to enter the world of work or to start their own business. For schools and teachers, the ESP is a full package to support entrepreneurial learning outcomes and to provide students with the skills and competencies employers are looking for.

The main result of the Entrepreneurial Skills Pass project is linked to the development of the certification package, including online training tools for teachers and students. Available in several languages and rolled-out to academic and vocational schools, the long-term objective of the ESP is to develop the programme by expanding the number of countries adopting the ESP, by increasing the total number students earning their ESP by getting more stakeholder organisations to endorse the programme and offer successful further opportunities. Through the establishment of some National Focus Groups, the Entrepreneurial Skills Pass will generate strong local stakeholder support and lead to more constructive collaboration between key players in the entrepreneurship education ecosystem. The ESP is presently offered in 25 European and non-European countries.


Category : partnerships, entrepreneurship education Posted : 6 February 2017 12:22 UTC
About the Author
Friederike Soezen, Policy Advisor in the Educational Policy Department of the Austrian Federal Economic Chamber

Friederike holds a PhD in Psychology from the University of Vienna and has been working with the Austrian Federal Economic Chamber’s (WKO) Educational Policy Department in Vienna since 2008. Before joining WKO, she worked for the Burgenland Chamber of Commerce for 18 years. As part of her work, Friederike directed the careers’ counselling and guidance services. After Austria’s entry to the European Union she managed several projects funded by Leonardo and Equal programmes. In her work Friederike’s consistent professional focus has been to strengthen and enhance careers’ and guidance counselling services as well as fostering entrepreneurial education and the entrepreneurial mind-set. After taking on the role as WKO’s policy advisor on entrepreneurship education, she became deeply involved in entrepreneurship education policy. Friederike has served as a representative of the European Association of Craft, Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (UEAPME), on a number of EU sponsored Working Groups: on Entrepreneurship Education, Transversal Skills and more recently she has participated as an expert in the joint Entrepreneurship360 project of OECD and Commission as well as an Advisory Board Member of the ETF’s Entrepreneurial Communities Initiative. Friederike is a keynote speaker and moderator at national and international conferences on Entrepreneurship Education.

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