With the background of global reports highlighting that a relationship exists between entrepreneurship education with entrepreneurial activity in an economy (Martinez, Levie, Kelley, Sæmundsson & Schøtt 2010) and that globally, small and medium enterprises (SMEs) play a major role in job creation and economic growth, this study seeks to establish the extent to which entrepreneurship training affects new venture formation and growth in Zimbabwe. The key research questions driving this study were:
? What skills training have businesses received to support start-up?
? What skills training have businesses received to support growth?
? To what extent do the selected entrepreneurship training programmes result in new business creation?
? To what extent do the entrepreneurship training programmes result in business growth?
? To what extent are training programmes content matched to enterprise needs?
? What factors have affected business performance in Zimbabwe for the start-up and growing of businesses?
A review of literature on entrepreneurship, training, education and transfer of skills or competencies highlighted key constructs and concepts for the study. It emerged that entrepreneurship studies have adopted theories and concepts from other disciplines. Entrepreneurship defined as a process of opportunity identification, evaluation and exploitation as well as for creating value or self-employment. There is consensus that certain facets of entrepreneurship can be taught. It was established that a well-designed programme uses a combination of didactics, skill-building and indicative learning strategies which combine knowledge, skill, competence and the attitude domain of learning. Of note is that the various skills required by entrepreneurs are technical, business management and personal entrepreneurial skills. The entrepreneurial process for new venture creation requires skills for its various stages.
The situation in Zimbabwe was investigated through empirical research on entrepreneurship training programmes for SMEs by studying entrepreneurs trained in the ILO and Empretec entrepreneurship programmes which are used globally and in African countries including Zimbabwe. Four entrepreneurship models developed in South Africa were reviewed as a basis for a framework to review the ILO and Empretec programmes implemented in Zimbabwe. The knowledge gap identified is that of the effectiveness and efficacy of the long established two globally implemented programmes for start-ups and growth and the relevance of entrepreneurship training programmes in developing countries particularly in Africa.
The theoretical perspective is positivism, research approach is deductive, using survey strategy and quantitative data for testing hypothesis. The main research findings and study contribution were five factors identified through factor analysis, namely business skills, entrepreneurial skills, business performance skills, business planning and presentation skills and the programme methodology. These skills or competencies are identified as some of the critical elements in the four training models reviewed and found to be necessary aspects of effective entrepreneurship training programmes. It was further established that pertaining to their design, content and structure, the ILO and Empretec training programmes need to include both key entrepreneurship and business skills during the core initial training, however both programmes resulted in business start-up rates and significant skills transfer, however limited on business growth and that demographic variables that are significant to entrepreneurship and business performance skills were the location/ place of business operation and the legal form of business. Policy makers, donors and sponsors should support more holistic and integrated programmes reflecting at a minimum the identified skills and competencies and appropriate methodologies.