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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Making Entrepreneurs: Returns to Training Youth in Hard Versus Soft Business Skills

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We study the medium-term impacts of the Skills for Effective Entrepreneurship Development (SEED) program, an innovative in-residence 3-week mini-MBA program for high school students modeled after western business school curricula and adapted to the Ugandan context. The program featured two separate treatments: the hard-skills MBA features a mix of approximately 75% hard skills and 25% soft skills; the soft skills curriculum has the reverse mix. Using data on 4400 youth from a nationally representative sample in a 3-arm field experiment in Uganda, the 3.5 year follow-up demonstrated that training was effective in improving both hard and soft skills, but only soft skills were directly linked to improvements in self-efficacy, persuasion, and negotiation. The skill upgrade was rewarded in substantially higher earnings; 32.1% and 29.8% increases in earnings for those who attended hard- and soft-training, respectively, most of which, was generated through self-employment. Furthermore, youth in both groups were more likely to start enterprises and more successful in ensuring their businesses' survival. The program led to significantly larger profits (24.2% and 27.2% for hard- and soft- treatment arms respectively) and larger business capital investments (38.4% and 32.6% for SEED hard and SEED soft, respectively). Both SEED curricula were very cost-effective; two months worth of the extra earnings caused by the training alone would exceed the cost of the program. These benefits abstract from the job- and business-creation benefits of the program, which were substantial: relative to the control group, SEED entrepreneurs created 985 additional jobs and 550 new businesses.

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