‘Educating for the 21 century: boosting digital skills and entrepreneurial thinking’ – highlights from the I-LINC Final event

Young people are presented with a plethora of opportunities but also exposed to challenges and risks as a result of the constantly transforming societies. Fast–paced digital and social transformations, which require increased adaptability. In order to avoid the problem of youth exclusion, we need to make sure that young people have the relevant transversal skills to be active citizens, taking advantage of all opportunities, including professional. In this context, digital and entrepreneurial skills play a crucial role. 

This was the context in which policy makers, young people, formal and non-formal educators, projects focusing on these topics and other relevant stakeholders gathered to exchange experience within the I-LINC Final Conference. The event, titled ‘Educating for the 21 century: boosting digital skills and entrepreneurial thinking' was organised within the Lifelong Learning Week.

The main aim of the conference was to share ideas and recent developments in the area of digital and entrepreneurial skills in education, and to present the outcomes of 3 years of activities of I-LINC.

The event was opened with a keynote speech by Ross Hall (Global Leadership, Ashoka), who discussed the role of schools and emergence for learning ecosystems that empower people to live for the greater good through the inspiring keynote "Education as a key to a positive society". Ross Hall focused on a broader concept of entrepreneurial mindset where collective wellbeing lies in the centre and young people are empowered to create their own future and work, opposite to just becoming an employer. Through his presentation, Ross Hall painted a picture of what a Changemaker is and how we can empower young people to be Changemakers. 



The keynote opened the floor for a constructive policy debate, moderated by Laurentiu Bunescu, CEO of ALL DIGITAL. The panel consisted of:

  • Caroline Jenner, JA Europe
  • Ilona Kish, Reading and Writing Foundation
  • Maria Podlasek-Ziegler, DG Education and Culture, European Commission
  • Rodrigo Ballester, Cabinet of Commissioner Tibor Navracsics
  • Deirdre Hodson, DG Education and Culture, European Commission

To open the discussion, panellists were first invited to share their views on Why are digital and entrepreneurial skills important? and What are the current policies that support youth in acquiring digital and entrepreneurial competences?

The discussion to follow focused on priorities at EU levels for empowering youth with digital and entrepreneurial skills and policy action to achieve this.

Rodrigo Ballester, Cabinet of Commissioner Tibor Navracsics, underpinned the need to make a distinction between digital natives and digitally competent people by highlighting that spending sufficient time in front of the computer is not enough. Mr. Ballester also highlighted the importance of transforming youth's mindsets through entrepreneurship, which contributes not only to personal development but also social. Mr Ballester shared with the audience that the European Commission is about to publish reviewed recommendations on key competences for lifelong learning, with additional recommendations on entrepreneurship.

Maria Podlasek-Ziegler, DG Education and Culture, European Commission, started her intervention with reflections on the educational context we are faced with now. Ms Ziegler explained that learning these days happens everywhere and teachers' and students' roles are changing. Teachers are negotiators, while students are constructors of knowledge. Education, therefore, should be more experimental and personalised. In this context, entrepreneurship education offers more possibilities for learning by doing. Ms Ziegler express the concern that broader definition of entrepreneurship, suggested also by EntreComp, is not taken upon by business yet.

Caroline Jenner, CEO of JA Europe, underpinned the relevance of entrepreneurship education for boosting students engagement and motivation. Furthermore, Ms Jenner highlighted the importance of having a progression of developing competences from early school education. Entrepreneurial learning gives relevance to other subjects (STEM, biology, history, etc.) because students see how the knowledge generated through various subjects can be used in real life situations. Ms Jenner shared the opinion that we need to have a discussion on school leaders and increase the number of in-service teacher training opportunities.


Deirdre Hodson, DG Education and Culture, European Commission, focused on some of the challenges related to equipping youth with digital skills. Ms Hodson, expressed the opinion that the complexity lies in what we are teaching and how, and where we are teaching.  The challenge of education is how to develop the full package of skills, while focusing on all students, including the less privileged. Ms Hodson shared also the work DG EAC on the new Self-assessment tool for digitally capable schools (SELFIE) and the ET2020 Working Group on Digital Skills and Competencies

Ilona Kish, Reading and Writing Foundation, focused the discussion around the changing nature of the digital skills gap, by explaining that the digital skills we talk about now are easy to grasp (coding, programming) but we need to add critical thinking, media literacy, and many more. Ms Kish highlighted the development of multi-stakeholder solutions as a way to tackle challenges because challenges are much more human and societal that digital. Ms Kish gave the example of public libraries as one social space, which has undergone major transformation. Furthermore, she gave the example of the Digital Skills and Jobs Coalition as a good model for cooperation.

The event was foreseen as a networking opportunity to create synergies and possible cooperation. Firstly, Iva Walterova (ALL DIGITAL) and Tomislava Recheva (European Schoolnet) provided some insights on achievements and outputs of the I-LINC project, highlighting that the I-LINC Final event was a culmination of the efforts of I-LINC, as an open membership platform, to connect stakeholders interested in youth employability, entrepreneurship and digital skills.

This presentation was followed by the Lightning talks session, where several representatives from European projects on the two main strands of the event presented their work. This session consisted of eight short presentations, namely:

  • Youth Start - Entrepreneurial Challenges, presented by Christian Wolf, Entrepreneurship Coordinator & Researcher at the Policy Experimentation & Evaluation Platform. See presentation here.
  • LEEN – Liminality and Educational Entrepreneurship, presented by Guido Cajot, teacher at the teacher training department of the University College Leuven- Limburg. See presentation here.
  • SELFIE EMPRENDEDOR, presented by Paz Fernandez de Vera. See presentation here.
  • EntreComp assesment tool for students and educators, presented by Ben Peeters, responsible for the secondary education programme of Vlajo (Flemish Young Enterprises). See presentation here.
  • Innovation Cluster for Entrepreneurship Education, presented by Veronica Mobilio, Senior Manager for Education Development at JA Europe. See presentation here.
  • Choose your future project, presented by Zdravka Kostova, coordinator of the project "Choose your future". See presentation here.
  • I-pdf for entrepreneurial teachers by Ikasenpresas Programme, presented by Inge Gorostiaga, Manager of Entrepreneurial Programmes in Tknika. See presentation here.
  • e-Schools pilot project, presented by Juraj Bilic, Expert for EU Projects at the Croatian Academic and Research Network – CARNet. See presentation here.


The second keynote speaker, Prof. Fernando Trujillo, University of Granada, with his inspirational speech on "Digital entrepreneurial learning: challenges for the 21st century school" discussed how digital entrepreneurial learning, rooted in methodologies such as cooperative learning, project-based learning or design thinking, may help schools cater for the 21st century students' need.


Two interactive session ensured a good exchange of practices and ideas, focusing on identifying priorities, ways to achieve them as a bottom up-approach and ways to collaborate better by also trying to integrate  separate actions focused at boosting digital or entrepreneurial skills.

The I-LINC Final event was also attended by the winners of the Selfie Entrepreneur competition: Alba Cividanes, José Antonio Cambil and Unai Gallego.



Country: Europe
Average (5 Votes)
The average rating is 5.0 stars out of 5.
No comments yet. Be the first.