Should schools do more to encourage entrepreneurship?

The Youth Agenda interviewed Mark Prisk MP, Stu Anderson of Shell LiveWIRE, and Penny Ward from the Young Entrepreneur Society and asked their opinions on the issue.

Future economic growth

A recent City & Guilds survey of 16-24-year-olds found that 49% have a ‘strong desire’ to set up their own business with the main reason being that they don’t want to work for someone else. The survey found that one in ten would like to go into business in the next year, with 35% saying they want to start within the next five years.

Lord Young, who served in Margaret Thatcher’s cabinet in the 1980s, says small businesses ‘are the engine room of our economy and critical to future economic growth.’  His report, ‘Make business your business’, published in May this year, shows that if we had the same rates of entrepreneurship as the US, the UK would have 900,000 more businesses.

Many sceptics cite university top-up fees and the ensuing debts as a major deterrent for young people wanting to start up their own business. However, in the US, where tuition fees are considered to be high, graduate entrepreneurs still account for 30% of growth in the economy, as opposed to just 8% in the UK.

So, if small businesses are vital to economic growth, The Youth Agenda asks: should schools be doing more to encourage entrepreneurship as a viable alternative to higher education and employment?

A viable career path

In a statement to The Youth Agenda, Mark Prisk, MP and Minister for Business and Enterprise said:

“I believe that by providing young people with early experiences of enterprise they will get a real taste for entrepreneurship that will build their enthusiasm to get into business.”

Mark says that although the government is promoting enterprise in schools, colleges and universities to develop the next generation

Mark Prisk, Minister for Business and Enterprise speaks with The Youth Agenda.

 of entrepreneurs, ‘we can, and need, to do better’.

According to Mark, young people should be experiencing enterprise as early as primary school.

Mark is encouraging schools to improve their links with local businesses, so that entrepreneurs can come into schools and talk about their experiences and how they got started. He says:

“Entrepreneurs can act as great role models for students.

“Enterprise plays such an important role in everyday life, so it is essential that schools, colleges and universities continue their good work. By investing time and effort into our young people now, we will be able to develop the next generation of entrepreneurs who can help take the UK forward into a bright economic future.”

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) has already launched Enterprise Village and Inspiring the Future, to help schools encourage entrepreneurship. Mark hopes that by forging good links with local businesses, schools and universities will be able help students into work and also ‘help them realise that starting your own business is a viable career path’.

How do you make an entrepreneur?

The Youth Agenda also interviewed Stu Anderson, Project Director at Shell LiveWIRE, the UK’s biggest online community for entrepreneurs aged 16-30. When asked whether you can teach entrepreneurship, he said:

“I think you can to a certain extent … [but] there are certain aspects of an entrepreneur that are inherent … very often it’s down to how you were brought up as well … There is certainly a place for teaching but I don’t think it’s everything.”

Stu believes there is space in the curriculum to teach innovation, but that it doesn’t have to be taught as a separate subject. Instead, ‘some element of innovation and entrepreneurship’ should be embedded in every subject and made relevant to young people’s lives.


The Youth Agenda speaks with Stu Anderson from Shell LiveWIRE

Failure is essential

Penny Ward, co-founder of the Young Enterprise Society, told The Youth Agenda:

“You most definitely can teach entrepreneurship.”

When asked whether innovation should be part of the curriculum, she said:

“Yes, it’s essential. It should be part of the enterprise curriculum. Entrepreneurship should be compulsory, especially in today’s times when youth unemployment is so high.”

Penny Ward, Co-Founder of The Young Entrepreneur Society, speaks with The Youth Agenda.

Research shows that young would-be entrepreneurs feel they lack business acumen and have little idea how to actually get a business off the ground.

Penny believes that schools can encourage these young people by focusing on personal development and positive thinking, and by dispelling the myth that only very rich or very clever people can start their own business.

In order to do this, she says every school and college should encourage businesses run by the students “so that they learn how to sell, how to do the marketing, they learn the administration … and they actually get some hands-on experience of how it works.”

Penny also believes that schools are not addressing failure in the right way. She says that while schools should praise success more, students also need to realise that they are going to have to fail before they can succeed in being a successful entrepreneur.

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Related links – For more information on entrepreneurship and innovation in schools:

The Young Entrepreneur Society

Shell LiveWIRE

The Department of Business, Innovation and Skills

Lord Young’s report: Make business your business

Enterprise Village – Teaching entrepreneurship

Inspiring the future – businesses working with schools

Startups – Young entrepreneur stories

Is the DWP’s Voluntary Work Experience scheme the right policy to follow?

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