That’s a pretty engaging title for a blog I’m sure you’ll agree, but you know what there isn’t a particularly pithy way of saying it, and even if I could think of one I wouldn’t use it, because I want there to be absolute clarity about this:
We need a generation of people that are innovative, entrepreneurial, bold and skilled up to the eyeballs in ways of creating social change. As a country we must start to become job makers and not job takers, we must start creating new revenue streams, we must start producing expertise and we must find ways that making money and creating positive social change are not mutually exclusive (see: social enterprise).
Not many people would disagree with that statement I suspect, but the ways of getting there are certainly up for discussion. Michael Gove thinks we need to create a robust, competitive, knowledge based education system, The Edge Foundation and others think we should focus on developing vocational skills, and me, well I think it’s about first of all perceiving young people as active members of our society, and then enabling and empowering them to make real differences, both in the present and in the future, for themselves, their communities and their society. The youth sector is very placed to lead on this, creating genuine opportunities to engage young people in financial and enterprise education and practice.
Time for a definition – enterprise and finance education is the learning of enterprise capability, supported by financial capability and economic and business understanding.
I concede that sounds pretty dull, well actually what it’s really about about is developing the ability to cope with uncertainty, responding positively to change, able to use ones initiatives and innovate, implementing new ideas and systems. As well as being able to assess risk to reward effectively, with the adoption of a ‘can-do’ attitude.
Effective enterprise education provides the opportunity for participants to learn essential life skills through doing, (kinaesthetic or experiential learning if you like). Including communication, negotiation, functioning in meetings, identifying problems, assessing need and working collaboratively with others to find viable solutions and then putting those solutions into practice, through project planning, implementation and reflection.
Young people should be expected to take personal responsibility for their own actions (which our factory education system is very good at drumming out of young people, but that’s something for another blog) through an enterprise process involving four distinct stages.
- Stage 1 – tackling a problem or need: generate ideas through discussion to reach a common understanding of what is required to resolve the problem or meet the need.
- Stage 2 – planning the project or activity: breaking down tasks, organising resources, deploying team members and allocating responsibilities.
- Stage 3 – implementing the plan: solving problems, monitoring progress.
- Stage 4 – evaluating the processes: reviewing activities and final outcomes, reflecting on lessons learned and assessing the skills, attitudes, qualities and understanding acquired.
There is a growing body of evidence to suggest that these enterprise education approaches can have a significant impact on attainment, behaviour and perhaps more importantly opportunity.
A Young Enterprise study, ‘Impact: 50 Years of Young Enterprises‘ showed that running a business at school almost doubles a person’s chances of self-employment later in life. The research shows that teenagers who get the chance to set up and run a profit-making enterprise in the classroom are almost twice as likely (42%) to become company owners than those who have not (26%). The research also shows that those involved in Young Enterprise at schools employ more people, turn over more money, are more innovative and high-tech, and are more resilient in surviving a recession.
This all supports the argument for providing young people and young adults with the skills, will and motivation to generate economic growth through small business start-up and job creation, in addition to a considered cultural shift towards self-reliance, innovation and community consciousness.
The truth is that there are already numerous organisations working, in their own unique ways, to make this happen, including MyBnk, pfeg, Young Enterprise and Enabling Enterprise to name a few, and they do genuinely great work. But more than ever what is needed now is a considered, strategic and national approach, across both the youth and education sectors, to encourage and provide opportunities for young people to successfully manage their own individual finances and to be entrepreneurial now and in the future, for the benefit of themselves, their communities and society as a whole.