Since 2008, Europe has been suffering from the effects of the economic crisis. Most effected by the crisis, are SMEs that have not yet been able to return to their pre-crisis level (Entrepreneurship 2020 Action Plan). At the same time, “Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) are the backbone of Europe’s economy” (Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission). They represent 99% of all businesses in the EU. Thus, in order to ensure economic prosperity, innovation, job creation and social integrations, it is essential to ensure SMEs growth and to enhance entrepreneurship mindset and competences.

Entrepreneurial mindset is a set of attitudes, skills and behaviors. The entrepreneurial mindset is not a personal predisposition but can be developed through learning and experience and can be achieved with the education system. More specifically, the entrepreneurial mindset can be developed through exercises including collaboration, reflection, business acumen, creative practice and the development of specific skills (Pollard and Willson, 2013). Entrepreneurship competencies combine creativity, a sense of initiative, problem-solving, the ability to marshal resources, and financial and technological knowledge. These competencies enable entrepreneurs to adapt to change (OECD, 2018).

Nowadays, schools, vocational and higher education institutions are trying to enhance entrepreneurial competencies and create an entrepreneurial mindset in students, by enriching their study programmes and by applying apprenticeship models.

Apprenticeships have been implemented for hundreds of years and have always been an important part of education systems across the globe. Apprenticeships are a way to supply learners with employability skills and job specific qualifications. In fact, apprenticeships have proven to be an effective means of ensuring that the formative education and training of learners is well aligned to actual labour market needs.

In this context, the Erasmus+ Project App.Mod.E (An Apprenticeship Model for developing Entrepreneurial skills) proposes an integrated scheme for the development of entrepreneurial mindset, skills and competences by students that are doing their apprenticeship.

More specifically, within the framework of the App.Mod.E project, an apprenticeship model was developed, which provides methodological support and practical tools to trainers, in order to include entrepreneurship education in the learning design of apprenticeships. The main objective of the model is to enhance the entrepreneurial mindset and competences of apprentices. To reach this objective, the model utilizes the European Entrepreneurship Competence Framework EntreComp and its progression model.

The Entrepreneurship Competence Framework aims to build a common understanding of entrepreneurship competence and offers a tool to improve entrepreneurial capacity of European citizens and organizations. Entrecomp defines entrepreneurship as transversal competence, which applies to all spheres of life: from nurturing personal development, to actively participating in society. The Entrecomp conceptual model is made up of two main dimensions: the 3 competences area (into action, ideas and opportunities, resources) that directly mirror the definition of entrepreneurship as the ability to turn ideas into action that generate value for someone other than oneself ; and the 15 competences that together, make up building blocks of the entrepreneurship as a competence for all citizens. As stated in the EntreComp framework (European Commission, 2016), the boundaries of individual and collective entrepreneurial competencies can be pushed forward, to achieve greater impact through value creating endeavors. The EntreComp Progression Model aims to provide a reference for the development of proficiency starting from value creation achieved though external support, up to transformative value creation. Its proficiency levels provide a way for the reader to look at the learning outcomes. It aims to be comprehensive and to offer a tool that can be adapted to different needs.

In order to enhance entrepreneurial competences in apprentices, the model uses an innovative methodology of problem-based learning (PBL), using gamification elements. Gamification is an educational approach to motivate students to learn by using game elements in learning environments (Kapp, 2012). Gamification elements in apprenticeships can be used to create motivation and engagement. On the other hand, the use of PBL in an apprenticeship model allows apprenticeships to enact problems usually faced in the workplace, whilst enhancing transferable skills such as teamwork, problem solving, risk assumption, public speaking, confidence, self-motivation, and creativity. For this reason, the problem-based learning methodology should be enhanced with gamification elements, which will provide the right motivation and engagement that will lead the apprentices to complete the mission successfully.

The purpose of this study is to present the process and the findings of the experimentation phase of the App.Mod.E apprenticeship model. Until now, the model has been tested on four students, doing their apprenticeship in a consulting company in Greece. It is projected that until the end of the summer 2019, the model will have been tested on a total of 18 students, across Europe, who will acquire entrepreneurial skills and competences and build an entrepreneurial mindset.

The pilot experimentation of the model in Greece, had a total duration of two months and was implemented on four students. In order to apply the problem-based methodology, the apprentices were given a real-life open-ended problem to solve, while in order to engage students and increase their commitment in the project, gamification elements were used. Apprentices were given a learning passport, which was divided into the three competence areas of entrepreneurship identified by the EntreComp framework. For each competence that we wanted to enhance, a different task was given, which was related to initial challenge. After completing each task, apprentices received a sticker, which was put inside the learning passport. At the end of the experience, students were asked to write down their conclusions and suggestions and the impact for them.

The evaluation of the experimentation phase showed that students had acquired new competences and developed their soft skills. Students learned how to work autonomously and, in a team, how to manage time, how to react effectively to unexpected risks and how to deal with stress. The project they were given, increased their sense of initiative, since they were responsible for the whole implementation and the delivery of quality results, while they learned how to turn their ideas into actions.

The company also benefited from the whole experience, since it had access to practical tools on how to implement the problem-based methodology and enhance it through gamification elements. Through the use of the App.Mod.E model, the company noticed an improvement in the motivation and engagement of the students involved and an increase in the acquirement of soft and entrepreneurial skills by students. In fact, at the end of the experience, the company offered a working position to one of the apprenticeships.