Young people face escalating unemployment rates and insufficient or unsatisfactory job opportunities. Despite this, most of them prefer a career in a formal organisation to a career in entrepreneurship. To more effectively prompt young people to choose entrepreneurship as a career, it is critically important to understand the personal and environmental factors relating to entrepreneurial career choice: the antecedents of entrepreneurial career choice. The core research question underlying this study is: What are the factors relating to entrepreneurial career choice in young people?
This study first constructs a conceptual framework of antecedents starting from the extant literature in this field. It then attempts to validate the framework empirically in a sample of South African secondary-school students, laying the foundation for building a theory of antecedents of entrepreneurial career choice. The data collection instrument is a questionnaire compiled mainly on the basis of validated questions available in the literature. The sample is made up of Grade-10, -11 and -12 secondary school learners, aged sixteen, seventeen and eighteen, respectively, selected using a convenience sampling technique. Different statistical tests are employed to examine the relationship between each antecedent factor of the conceptual framework and entrepreneurial career choice.
The majority of respondents expressed entrepreneurial-career-choice intentions. The results confirmed a relationship between entrepreneurial career choice and the following antecedents: family support, community support, early childhood experiences, work experience, prior start-up experiences and education. An intricate network of relationships was also found among the antecedents investigated, including some biographical variables. The findings suggest that the current Economic and Management Science (EMS) curriculum implemented in South African secondary schools is achieving its objective of raising students’ entrepreneurial-career-choice intentions. At the same time, however, a number of extra-curricular activities and experiences seem to be related to students’ entrepreneurial-career-choice intentions. This signifies that efforts to foster the choice of an entrepreneurial career among the youth should not be focused entirely on adjusting the school curriculum. Lastly, the number of inter-relationships observed among the antecedents of entrepreneurial career choice signifies that entrepreneurial career choice is a complex phenomenon and that building a theory of antecedents is an arduous undertaking.