Sharon Davies, CEO of Young Enterprise

#Skills2030 - Now is the time to provide young people with the skills they need to succeed

Young people in the UK are not receiving equality of opportunity- and the proof is crystal clear. Social mobility is falling according to the Social Mobility Commission, and the disadvantage gap between students is much higher than we thought, according to the recent FFT Database Report which details how schools have been off-rolling problem pupils to bump up school results.

According to FFT, a disproportionate number of off-rolled students come from less advantaged backgrounds than their peers. The issue is compounded by the fact that disadvantaged students are on average two years behind their peers by the time they finish their GCSEs.

It is clearer than ever that we have a social mobility problem. Young people are not entering the working world on an equal footing. Instead, their path is all too often pre-set by their background. If we are truly serious about not leaving a generation of young people behind, then we cannot continue to ignore this problem. Doing so risks setting up thousands of young people to fail before they even begin their working lives.

Social mobility begins with education. That is why it is so important that we create a level playing field for young people and provide them with opportunities to build the skills to succeed in life while they are still at school. This means equipping them with tools to navigate the adult world.

A crucial part of this is providing young people with a well-rounded education that isn’t just focused on the core academic curriculum. Helping young people develop an enterprising mindset and build a ‘can do attitude’ can have a profound impact on their career potential, teaching them adaptability and initiative and improving essential traits such as communication and problem solving.

Equally, teaching young people how to manage and save money effectively, how to evaluate risk, and how to avoid becoming a victim of fraud is essential. These skills may sound basic, yet only two in five children say they have had any form of financial education in school.

Giving young people access to new skillsets and encouraging them to step outside their comfort zones has proven to be incredibly effective in our work at Young Enterprise. Young people who begin as shy and unsure have gone on to build successful careers after completing our programmes.

It is the creativity, confidence and leadership skills nurtured by such an education that can make a real difference to young people by bridging the academic and professional worlds. Consistent access to this kind of education means young people without strong personal networks get the same opportunity to build skills, which give them an equal footing when it comes to being able to share their experience with potential employers when they enter the workplace.

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I recently set out Young Enterprise’s goal to provide a minimum of one million opportunities to young people in the next three years to help young people get that fair start to building a bright future and give them the confidence and skills to succeed. It is crucially important that we as parents, educators, business leaders and policy makers recognise the critical importance these skills have in unlocking social mobility and collaborate to ensure we are doing all we can to offer all our young people accessible opportunities to build truly bright and prosperous future.

The bottom line is that a financial and entrepreneurial education helps young people build the skills and mindset they need to succeed in the working world – whatever their starting point. We just need to make sure that, as a society, we are brave enough to get in their corner wherever they live and provide those opportunities to develop the skills and ambition to build a different future to the one they might first have envisaged.

Sharon Davies, CEO of Young Enterprise

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