From education to employment

Encouraging enterprise as the key to economic growth

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Commentators regularly agree that a key driver for the UK economy is the creation and success of small businesses. Undoubtedly, creating a more entrepreneurial UK has many benefits; it’s highly important that we support and promote an enterprise culture amongst young people.

The Apprentice has recently returned to our screens providing compulsive viewing as a number of aspiring businessmen and women seek to please Lord Alan Sugar, completing a number of tasks to prove themselves as the ultimate entrepreneur.

Unfortunately, many of the contestants fall apart during the process; their confidence comes across as brash arrogance, their decisions seem rash and foolish. Even the most polished managing director seems to fall apart under the pressure of the boardroom. Of course, as armchair entrepreneurs we’re only too happy to offer pertinent advice from the comfort of our sofas!

However, being enterprising is more difficult than many might assume, the business world is more competitive than ever and it takes more than enthusiasm and a good idea to be a success in the current economic climate. Making your idea happen can seem like an uphill struggle. There are a lot of initiatives out there that support young people in business startups but I think the preparation needs to begin earlier than that – enterprise needs to be put at the heart of education.

By raising the status of enterprise in education, we could help to produce a generation of young people with business acumen, confidence, employability skills and an understanding of the world of work. Enterprising activities as part of a structured course are a really impressive addition to any CV; it shows initiative, it shows spark, a get-up-and-go attitude to set you apart from the competition.

At NCFE, we’re always delighted to hear about the enterprising activities that our learners have been getting up to; students from Abington and Witney College took part in a terrifying Dragon’s Den style competition which saw them pitching new ideas to a board of 20 local business people and learning key employability skills to prepare them for the tough labour market. More recently, students from Gateshead College came into our offices to sell underwear to staff as part of a national entrepreneurial challenge for charity. We’ve also recently started sponsoring ‘mybizidea’ who offer enterprising resources and information so that learners can develop their business savvy approaches via an online interactive tool.

This is the kind of learning that engages young people, sparks an interest in them and motivates them to go out and get the job. At NCFE, we offer a number of enterprise qualifications which build confidence, motivation and an enterprising mindset. Practical in nature, learners have the opportunity to take part in projects to give context to their learning.

These qualifications can be delivered flexibly and woven into the curriculum alongside sector specific qualifications. For example, enterprise could be offered alongside a food or photography qualification to show learners how their skills could work in the real world as a business.

Enterprise qualifications are also a great addition to the Study Programme, which will come into effect from September of this year. The qualifications support the development of key employability skills and give structure to the work experience element of the programme, enabling students to demonstrate the skills that they’ve learnt and how they can be applied in the workplace.

It’s a common bugbear of employers that potential employees come to them bright eyed and bushy tailed but lacking the basic employability skills that they need to enter the workplace. This perhaps explains why teens are 3 times as likely to be unemployed as ‘adults’. So let’s support young people and make sure they have the right confidence and mindset when they walk into that interview or when they go to pitch their business idea. Let’s help them truly achieve through enterprise, buck the bleak global unemployment trend and set them on the road to a brighter future.

David Grailey is chief executive of NCFE, the training provider


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