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.


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?


Cameron proposes cuts to housing benefits for under-25s

Prime Minister David Cameron is proposing new reforms to the benefits system that will see thousands of young people lose their housing benefits.

The Youth Agenda interviewed Kyle Thornton, MSYP and Chair of Glasgow Youth Council, Olly Neville of Young Independence, Sam Coates, Co-chair of the Young Greens, and Shelter chief executive Campbell Robb.

About the policy suggestion

Prime Minister David Cameron has suggested a policy for the Conservative manifesto of the next general election which would potentially cut housing benefits for the under-25s.

Mr Cameron has said he wants to debate ideas for welfare reform before the Conservatives produce their manifesto for the next general election. These reforms could lead to 380,000 people under 25 being stripped of housing benefits and forced to join the growing number of young adults who still live with their parents.

He said the housing benefit system for people under 25 encouraged young people to “grab” their independence through the benefit system rather than earn it. He argues:

“For literally millions, the passage to independence is several years living in their childhood bedroom as they save up to move out, while for many others, it’s a trip to the council where they can get housing benefit at 18 or 19 – even if they’re not actively seeking work.”

Mr Cameron also argued that the welfare system encourages working-age people to have children but not work, making taxpayers resentful.

Department of Work and Pensions figures show that, there are 385,000 under-25s claiming housing benefit, of which 204,000 have children.

Cameron’s idea to scrap housing benefit for the under-25s would save the government close to £2 billion a year.

Outrageous proposal

In an interview with The Youth Agenda, Campbell Robb, Chief Executive of Shelter, said many young people “simply don’t have family and friends to fall back on if they lose their job, and rely on housing benefit to keep a roof over their head”.

‪Campbell says that at a time when many young people are facing significant difficulties in finding work, these proposals would leave thousands with nowhere else to go. He says:

“They would also present serious problems for vulnerable young people, for example care leavers and those who have experienced family breakdown… And since previous changes to housing benefit will force people with spare rooms to downsize and penalise those with adult children living at home, these policies appear completely contradictory.” ‪

‪”It’s outrageous that the government is considering undermining the housing safety net yet again. Sadly it seems inevitable that we’ll see an increase in homelessness as a result.”

Focus on jobs, not housing

The Youth Agenda spoke to Kyle Thornton, MSYP for Glasgow Southside and Chair of Glasgow Youth Council, who also stressed that the young people claiming these benefits won’t have anyone else to turn to, apart from Shelter and other charities which are already overstretched. He said:

“At a time when there’s 20% youth unemployment – at a time when young people are really finding it tough – to have something else taken from them isn’t justified.”

Kyle says the government needs to come up with proposals to support young people before they go ahead with the cuts. There needs to be a greater focus on getting young people into jobs and supporting them into work, so as to improve their quality of life.

Discrimination against the young

Sam Coates, Co-chair of the Young Greens, the youth arm of the Green Party, is also of the opinion that the government should be focusing on jobs for young people. He says we need:

“Action to get young people into work through getting [them] into government backed jobs and tackling rising rents in the private sector and the housing market in general.”

When The Youth Agenda asked Sam if he agreed with David Cameron’s proposals, he said:

“Absolutely not, we’re completely opposed.  It’s discriminatory against young people.”

“There’s the idea that under-25s are less likely to vote Tory, therefore they’re not losing much support, but it will also affect their parents too.”

Sam also says, “it’s victimising young unemployed people who are statistically the least likely to vote”.

Sensible in principle

Olly Neville, Social Media and Campaigns Officer for Young Independence, the youth arm of the UK Independence Party, thinks that in principle it’s a good idea but that the government should give simple cash benefits, instead of subsidising housing, so people can choose how they spend the money. In this way, young people who choose to live with their parents won’t lose out.

Olly believes that young people should turn to their families first rather than relying on the government, but in cases where people don’t have any family to rely on he says:

“I’m not sure if the Tories have really thought this through and accommodated for these people in our society.”

He thinks that before making any policy decisions, the government needs to look at the poorest and most vulnerable young people and say, ‘How is this going to affect those people?’

Kyle Thornton says:

“If you’re worried about it, write to your MP, write to your MSP: let them know you’re worried. Let them know that you want them to be speaking up for you.”


Related linksFor more information on David Cameron’s policy proposal:

BBC – “Long term unemployed could have benefits cut”

Daily Mail – David Cameron’s original interview

Shelter – The housing and homelessness charity

Young Greens

Young Independence

Scottish Youth Parliament

Glasgow Youth Council on Facebook 

Riots One Year On: Have we done enough to prevent them happening again?

In 2011, Britain was shocked by the violence of the riots but have the government done enough to prevent it from happening again? What steps are being taken? And why are young people so often blamed?

The Youth Agenda talks to Tom Lawson, CEO of Leap Confronting Conflict, Gavin Barwell, Conservative MP for Croydon Central and David Lammy, Labour MP for Tottenham and Shadow Higher Education Minister.

About the riots

On 7 August 2011, riots broke out in Tottenham, London, after a peaceful protest following the death of a local man, Mark Duggan, who was shot dead by police on 4 August 2011. The violence began after large numbers of police arrived to disperse the protesters.

Rioting quickly spread through London, with violence escalating. Over the next three days there were clashes with police, shops were looted and set on fire along with vehicles and homes, and rioting spread to Birmingham and the West Midlands, Merseyside, Greater Manchester, Bristol and other areas of the UK.

Parliament was recalled on 11 August 2011 to tackle the situation. There were a total of 3,443 crimes linked to the disorder across London, and an estimated £200 million worth of property damage incurred.  Over 4,000 arrests have been made so far.

Along with five deaths, at least sixteen members of the public were injured, as were 186 police officers and five police dogs.

Coordinating government responses

The Youth Agenda spoke to Tom Lawson, CEO of Leap Confronting Conflict, which works with young people to prevent the escalation of everyday conflict into destructive behaviour and violence.

Tom believes we should be working to understand the causes of the rioting, as well as trying to prevent them from happening again in the future.

He says the government is making ‘some good recommendations about the importance of coordinating responses’ but that they should be doing more to coordinate government services with volunteer and business services to tackle unemployment. But, he says, ultimately ‘the recommendations don’t go far enough.’

Tom strongly believes that we need a ‘much greater focus and attention on 18-24-year-olds … they’re the group with the least support’.

Deeply rooted causes

Most people agree that the riots were the result of a number of factors and that there are deep seated issues that need to be addressed. David Lammy, Labour MP for Tottenham, where the riots originally started, told The Youth Agenda:

‘The thing that all the rioters have in common is that they don’t have enough of a stake in society that makes them stop and think, ‘I don’t want to get involved in this’. So unemployment, poor housing, little money, little prospects – those are things that mean people don’t have a stake in society and can lead them to find themselves caught up in rioting.’

David believes it is wrong to blame young people for the riots, saying ‘the vast majority of young people and young adults did not participate in the riots’.

When The Youth Agenda spoke to Gavin Barwell, Conservative MP for Croydon Central, he cited gang culture, issues with the criminal justice system, and ‘an issue about relations between young people and the police, particularly young black men and the police, and how stop and search operates’ as some of the underlying causes of the riots.

Prevention and change

With cut backs in youth services it will become increasingly difficult to help young people in communities, especially in housing estates.

Gavin believes that in order to prevent rioting in the future we need to ‘improve the relationship between young people and the police’. At the same time, he says we need to deter rioters by sending a ‘clear message’ that they will be properly punished for their actions.

Why are young people being blamed?

One thing both David Lammy and Gavin Barwell are adamant about is that young people should not be taking the full blame for the rioting and violence in London last summer.

David states: ‘It is wrong to describe these riots as about Britain’s young people. The vast majority of young people in Britain did not get caught up in the riots, and that includes the areas that were most affected.’

Gavin agrees, saying, ‘It’s very important to stress that it wasn’t just young people involved.’ He also says that young people in his constituency in Croydon are angry about the way they’ve been portrayed in the media:

‘I think unfortunately there’s a great tendency in our society to stereotype, and you see it in relation to teenagers … [teenagers are] trying to show older people that actually the vast majority of young people in Croydon aren’t like the stereotype at all – they’re decent, law-abiding kids, they’ve got talent, they’ve got ability, they’re the future of the town … in our society there is this generational divide and I think it’s very important that we unpick that.’


Related linksFor more information about what has happened since the riots

Leap Confronting Conflict

Project Change, Croydon

David Lammy speech at RSA

Riots Communities and Victims Panel

Interim report into the riots – ‘5 days in August’

Response from The Children’s Society

Young people can strengthen their communities – British Youth Council

Are Inner London Boroughs feeling the effects of the Olympic legacy?

The London 2012 Olympics were won on a bid promising a legacy for the next generation. The Youth Agenda explores if the legacy program is being felt by young people in the inner London boroughs which aren’t hosting any events.

Chris Membu (21), Rochelle Gidden (17) and Joel Rust (15) from the Lewisham Youth Council spoke with The Youth Agenda about what they have seen from the Olympic legacy team in Lewisham so far. Jennette Arnold interviewed with The Youth Agenda to give an insight into how the Olympic legacy was being felt in North East London. This article also draws on government press releases about the Olympic legacy.

About the legacy

The legacy planning for the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic games played a significant role in why London won the bid to become the host city in 2012. Our bid included leaving a legacy after the games had come and gone. The following legacy objectives were outlined:

– Building a passion for sport and creating a more active nation
– Creating and exploiting new opportunities for economic growth
– Promoting community engagement and involvement through the games
– Regenerating East London
– Improving the lives of disabled people in the UK

The host boroughs of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic games are Greenwich, Hackney, Newham, Tower Hamlets and Waltham Forest.

The legacy objectives of regeneration and, to some extent, the creation of opportunities for economic growth, are specific to the host boroughs. The other objectives cover legacy issues which should be felt outside of the host boroughs as well though, especially in their near neighbours – inner London boroughs which aren’t hosts.

Living with ambition

Jennette Arnold AM, Chair of The London Assembly, told The Youth Agenda that she expected young people living near the Olympic sites now to be ‘growing with the transformation’. She said:

‘The ambition that was there from the beginning was about a place where young people could live, they could have the ambition to live there, to get the jobs that are there and to be involved in sports and leisure that isn’t there now, but will be there.’

Asked if the Olympic legacy was just for young people in host boroughs, Jennette said she believed ‘the games are of London and for Londoners, but they were located within some specific boroughs’.

Young advisors to The Lewisham Youth Council, which neighbours two of the host boroughs, were slightly more sceptical though. Joel Rust said ‘I personally don’t know anything about the London legacy team’, while Rochelle Gidden expressed a desire to have a closer relationship with the legacy team, hinting at a lack of involvement and engagement:

‘Even if representatives don’t come down to us, they could organise for more outings for us to go to them to see what they do.’

Chris Membu spoke with pride about an upcoming sports day which Lewisham were hosting and which didn’t previously exist. However Chris said the sports day was driven by young people in Lewisham who ‘came over to us at the Young Mayor’s department to find out if we can do something about it with our connections’.

Although such desire from young people clearly ticks the box of the first legacy objective (building a passion for sport), it was clear that the young advisors wanted more direction and input from London 2012 officials.

Rowing in Islington

The success of the Olympic legacy can only fairly be judged in the future looking back. The success of the Olympic legacy could even be measured using factors such as comparing employment rates in East London, national obesity figures or even sports club memberships.

There are some immediate indicators that the Olympics legacy could use though, albeit not direct measurements. One of these is the variety of sports young people in inner London boroughs are involved in. Jennette Arnold recounted a story from when she was a councillor at Islington when she was asked to meet somebody. She asked:

“Who is it?”
“He’s from Islington boat club.”
“Oh, I didn’t realise we had a boat club.” Jennette continued.
“Well we’ve got enough canals, so it’s really useful that we’ve got a boat club!” Came the reply.

Joel commented that he hadn’t seen any new Olympic sports being introduced to his games lessons, but that ‘athletics has become a lot more common now, whereas before we used to do a lot of football’. Rochelle added ‘we’ve been doing shotput and high jumps at my athletics club for a while and you do start to see other groups and teams that have started to do that as well.’

The greatest prize on offer from the London 2012 Olympics and Paralympics games is not the size of Team GB’s medal haul, but the pride felt by young people watching the games who can be inspired by the performances, but also supported by a long term change in the society around them.

It is important for young people outside of the host boroughs to feel like the games are a part of their lives, rather than a short term event which just happens to be happening near to them.


Related linksFor more information about the London 2012 legacy

London 2012 Young Leaders

Department for Communities and Local Government

Lewisham Young Mayor

London Assembly asks “What are the costs of funding and delivering the legacy once the games are over?”

House of Commons Culture, Media and Sport report on Olympic and Paralympic legacy

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

The Youth Agenda explores if the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP)’s Voluntary Work Experience scheme is the right policy for unemployed young people.

Contributions came from Siobhan Benita, Teresa Pearce MP, Chris Wilford of the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC), Greggs the bakers (a participating organisation) and Chris Grayling MP – employment minister at the DWP.

About the scheme

Participation on the Voluntary Work Experience scheme is available to anybody aged 16-24 who has been receiving Jobseeker’s Allowance for at least 13 weeks. 

The scheme provides participants with a work experience placement of between two and eight weeks for 25-30 hours per week.  The scheme is voluntary and participants are not paid, but travel and childcare costs can be reimbursed.

Whilst taking part on the scheme, volunteers still need to search for work to continue to receive their Jobseeker’s Allowance.

The objective of the scheme is to provide hands on work experience for young people with few qualifications and little previous experience.  Some participants may be offered employment after completion of the scheme with the organisation they are volunteering for.

Individual needs

Chris Wilford, a policy advisor at the REC, a trade association representing the interests of employers to government, said:

‘It should be seen as part of a tailored package where this is one element.’  He encourages participants on the scheme to view it as ‘a step towards something and there should be an end goal with evaluation points at three, six, nine months after.’

Teresa Pearce MP discussed with The Youth Agenda, the need to tailor the service.  She said:

‘What I’d like is people fitted to work experience that fits them, whereas at the moment what happens is the organisations that send you on the work experience [are doing] a tick box exercise, to a certain extent.’

Teresa also argued for the need of success to be measured on individual merit, stating ‘each person’s different and what you want is a successful outcome for that person.’

The Youth Agenda also interviewed Greggs, the bakers, who are one of the companies participating in the scheme.  They gave a different perspective:

‘Working with Job Centre Plus, we ask for placements within specific areas so we get a good match and we supply them with a job description to help them match people with the roles they have specified as a preference.’

Daniel Kelly participated in the scheme with Greggs and was later offered a permanent job in their payroll function.  He described the opportunity provided to him as ‘a lifeline’.

When interviewed by The Youth Agenda, Chris Grayling MP (minister for employment at the DWP) highlighted:

‘Businesses should communicate with young people about the role they will play in the organisation, and what they can expect in return in terms of support, supervision and mentoring.’

Hope and sympathy

When interviewed by The Youth Agenda, Siobhan Benita, former candidate in the 2012 London mayoral elections, argued that the softer elements of hope for young people and sympathy from the government needed to be improved:

‘The biggest thing at the moment for young people, who are either leaving school at 18 or university, is the possibility of not having work.  So actually, a four week or an eight week placement is fine, but it doesn’t give that hope for the long term.’

Siobhan believes that young people need to take responsibility for their own careers, but added:

‘It’s fine for the government to be saying ‘you’ve got to do your bit’, and I agree with that, but there has to be more help out there.  There has to be more sympathy for how hard that is.’

Chris Grayling MP, however suggested that hope was provided from the scheme:

‘Work experience gives young people the skills to start on the career ladder and a chance to shine in front of a potential employer.’

He urged young people considering whether to participate on the scheme to take part.  He added ‘A short period of work experience is one of the best things you can do to help you find work and who knows – four weeks could turn into a lifetime career.’

If you have taken part in the Voluntary Work Experience scheme, are considering taking part or if you think the scheme either needs changing or is the wrong approach to take, we would like to hear from you.  Please leave your comments below.


Related links for more information on the DWP’s Voluntary Work Experience scheme

Direct Gov, a full overview of the scheme

Department for Work and Pensions, reasons for the scheme

Greggs, press release from their CEO about the scheme

Employment Related Services Association (ERSA)’s reaction to DWP’s statement on work experience placements

Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC)

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