Teaching entrepreneurship skills and entrepreneurial thinking has become increasingly relevant for student success in the real world. Being introduced to this style of thinking allows students to look at problems they or others may be facing in new ways and identify well-timed, profitable solutions to those problems.

This style of thinking doesn’t just apply to the world of entrepreneurship or business – its processes can be applied everywhere. They are especially well suited for today’s ever-changing economy, as well as one aspect of it that often goes unnoticed: freelancers, who thrive in what is known as the “Gig Economy”.

What is the Gig Economy?

Maybe you’ve heard or read about “the rise of the gig economy”. It’s a techy way of saying that companies are hiring more freelancers in place of full-time staff. Freelancers are people who aren’t employed permanently at one company. In 2016, 35% of people in the US participated in freelance work. It is predicted that by 2027, more than 50% of people will participate in freelance work.

The importance of this trend can’t be overstated. Students are inhabiting a world of work that is drastically changing, and we need to start preparing them for this new reality.

What Are the Pros and Cons of the Gig Economy?

The major benefit of the gig economy is its flexibility. Freelancers can work as much or as little as they want. They can fit in freelance work around existing commitments such as a part-time job or higher education, or use their free time to pursue a passion that doesn’t necessarily cover their living costs. Freelancing provides people with the flexibility they might need to pursue their dreams and make money at the same time.

The flexible working conditions of the gig economy, however, can come at a price. Full-time employment often provides important benefits like health coverage and retirement plans. Freelance work does not always provide a steady income and comes with few, if any, of the benefits of full-time positions. To succeed, students need to have a good understanding of how to manage their work life as well as mitigate future risks.

How Can We Prepare Students for the Gig Economy?

Being a freelancer is like running your own small business. Planning ahead, marketing your skills to potential employers, and managing your finances are all important skills to have to be successful. Students will need to understand the basics of business much more than when previous generations entered the workforce.

Second, students need to take control of their finances. As previously mentioned, employers are no longer providing health and retirement benefits to freelancers. Students need to budget their earnings to pay for these significant items. This means being able to balance a budget, understand taxes, build their credit score, set up a 401k, etc. Students need these basic financial concepts to be prepared for their future.

What can we do? The best thing we can do as educators is teach students about personal finance and entrepreneurship so they are prepared for that future. Utilize (no-cost) resources like EVERFI Financial Literacy and Venture Entrepreneurship that help students build skills that they will use in the real world. The gig economy is coming and teachers are ready to prepare our students!

Clark is a schools implementation manager in Brooklyn, New York. He is a life-long learner who loves thinking and discussing the future of education.


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