Charlotte Bosworth, director for skills and employment at awarding body OCR, believes the merits of encouraging student interest in the world of enterprise and entrepreneurship will reap dividends for young people in particular, and the nation generally. She outlines the positive practical steps and encouragement OCR is supporting to help ensure students have all the tools they need to successfully enter the world of commerce.
While the notion of entrepreneurship has over recent years gained a high profile thanks to TV programmes such as 'The Apprentice', nonetheless the majority of students looking to arm themselves with the necessary skills, attributes and qualifications to forge a successful business career can often struggle to develop their potential and demonstrate their true abilities. With the generally accepted view that the country needs higher numbers of young entrepreneurs to support economic growth and build new, exciting businesses, it has never been more important to establish a strong enterprise and entrepreneur culture that the young generation can tap into.
At Government level the work being undertaken by Lord David Young looking at the role of education and enterprise is most welcome. As a supporter of work in this field, OCR, as a leading awarding body, is delighted to be actively participating both by providing feedback to Lord Young's review, as well as developing our own practical initiatives in this critical area.
We want to get the message across that a sense of entrepreneurship, good ideas, taking an initiative and seizing opportunities are not the preserve of the few. Regardless of background, geographic location or individual ability, everyone has the same chance to succeed if supported, motivated and enabled. We talk about the three Rs of reading, writing and arithmetic, but what about the 3 Es – enterprise, entrepreneurship and employability?
What are some of the key elements of the movement to put enterprise centre stage in the minds of students, many of whom will form our next generation of business leaders?
At a national level and offering a practical platform for students to test their entrepreneurial skills is the National Enterprise Challenge (NEC); an inter-school competition available to all secondary schools in the UK. The challenges are tailor-made 'real life' business challenges designed to stimulate student ideas and motivate them. As Theo Paphitis from Ryman Stationery - who are helping to set this year's challenge - says to participating students: "The National Enterprise Challenge is the start of a journey to making you successful. It will begin to provide you with the tools to be in business." Such is our belief in the importance of the initiative that we intend to provide the funding for a number of secondary schools to participate in the 2014 NEC and who might not have otherwise been able to take part without our support.
As well as supporting the laudable aim of the NEC, OCR has also recently developed its own bespoke set of qualifications to recognise achievement in the world of enterprise. 'Being Entrepreneurial' is a value for money qualification suite, based on programmes established in close consultation with current young entrepreneurs so that the course content matches the expectations of those looking to make the most of the opportunity.
The new formal OCR qualification recognise learners have attained the essential transferable skills that can be applied in future learning or everyday aspects of life in social or work situations. Students get the opportunity to investigate the true meaning of what it is to be entrepreneurial and the kind of mind set required to succeed. They then underscore this with practical skills such as problem solving, communication, research and change management which will arm students with the attributes sought by employers in the 21st century. We feel the 'Being Entrepreneurial' qualification portfolio is an important addition to the national award framework with its explicit objective to help and recognise the entrepreneurs of tomorrow.
Other significant initiatives set to boost a spirit of enterprise across the country's student community includes Entrepreneur Live, a series of six events that will run through the year and give 6,000 students the chance to engage with some of the UK's top entrepreneurs and gather inspiration and insight about their successes. Likewise the Premier League Enterprise Challenge sees the world's most watched football league run a business-based competition through the Premier League Enterprise Academy framework to help hard-to-reach youngsters assess and interact with the world of business. Teacher resources have been developed with the Premier League to support the programme and all students have the opportunity to achieve a recognised qualification.
Finally, to help inspire students, the work of The Entrepreneurial Education Group (TEEG), formed through a partnership between YES Education and OCR, is designed to equip and lead a new generation of entrepreneurial educators. TEEG sees itself as a fusion between entrepreneurs, business and education with the aim to embed a more entrepreneurial mind-set to the world of work. It will create a national network of advice, mentoring and good practice and partner with schools, colleges, secure institutions, businesses and entrepreneurs to forge a wholly integrated approach.
It is clear from the wide range of examples here that the drive to support enterprise, entrepreneurship and employability is gaining real traction. The common factor is the opening up of opportunity for the many, not just the few, and the strong desire to release the untapped business potential of the nation's youth. OCR intends to play a full part in this realisation.
Charlotte Bosworth is director for skills and employment at OCR, the awarding body