Financial services have been tragically exposed by the meltdown in the euro markets and the convoluted intricacies of the financial world have been attacked by all corners of the public sphere. And yet, even with the worsening public press this sector receives and the alienation portrayed between folks that often cite the sound bite "I work in the City" and those who do not, I can't help to think about the way the UK education system is itself structured with regard to pushing graduates towards the corporate schemes in the lucrative financial district. Whether that be in Investment Banking or Management consultancy, it's seen as the top of the Christmas Tree in the frenzied and ever-competitive job market.
Recent events have diminished the glitter associated with the financial district and the image of entrepreneurship has enhanced this past year, a recent example being that of the "Silicon Valley Comes to the UK" campaign which welcomed pioneers of the most disruptive consumer internet and green technologies to the UK.
The expanded reach of entities such as Virgin Media Pioneers, set up by Virgin Mogul Richard Branson, the new Deloitte Institute of Innovation and Entrepreneurship, Entrepreneur First and NACUE (National Association of College and University Entrepreneurs) have all made giant strides to advocate for the increased support of student-led enterprise initiatives at universities.
Universities can undoubtedly do more to foster student entrepreneur activity, whether that is through the support of Business Incubation facilities, entailing more research-led initiatives and reforming their teaching programs to allow theoretical learning to fuse with practical approaches to entrepreneurship.
This would be my approach to the future of teaching and inspiring enterprise, which probably won't be heard by the upper echelons of the university hierarchy. There's one thing which can't be ignored though, and that's the recent buzz created in the Hi-tech industry at Tech City in Old Street, London. The clusters of tech start-ups appearing around this densely-populated area has caused a stir instigated by Google, by providing office space and assistance to new technology companies. This future innovation hub has been championed by the Prime Minister, who seems willing to provide the necessary support to this initiative and the potential employment opportunites for many graduates, who are willing to forgo the somewhat "job security and cushy pay package" provided by large organisations or a typical graduate scheme.
As already mentioned in the previous paragraph, entrepreneurship highlights the opportunities which exist, and can only be sustained through involvement with young, ambitious entrepreneurs to build the next generation of innovative products and companies. Graduates with a mixture of skills should engage with these opportunities casting their net far and wide, and taking the risk of joining or creating a start-up.
Admittedly, it's difficult, and there is a chance (but an ever-decreasing one in the Social Enterprise sector) of failure- but the possibility and realisation of success is the most invigorating and rewarding challenge there is to experience. The eclectic mix of skills that starting your own company bring about and the possibility of making the UK, not just London, into the innovation brainwave of the world is an exciting prospect, one which the government are firmly behind.
Our universities need to appreciate the need for creating innovative and engaging experiences for consumers, which can reap huge benefits for the company, the university and the wider community. Take Social Enterprise initiatives; these are about embodying an approach to provide innovative solutions through business that help change the world for the better. Having recently been at a Social Enterprise Conference, the problems associated with NEETs (Not in Employment, Education or Training) and the stigma attached can be overcome by providing them with the tools to create a sustainable business, such as developing and then selling their products to the wider community. University enterprise societies have encouraged engagement to help address social and unfathomable problems, initiatives which I fully stand behind to make our world a better place.
Entrepreneurship is now trending. It's time to change the culture, where failing with one idea doesn't mean you can't come up with the next big thing. Embrace failure, it's the only road that will lead to success. Many entrepreneurs have to pick themselves up a number of times before they obtain the right formula for success; the Yipit Co-founder Vinicius Vacanti details the ongoing struggle of two-and-a-half years and no revenue to show for until his product took off. It's time to forge new frontiers within enterprise, and exploit the global potential around us. I leave you with this; Groupon was a start-up three years ago; it is now a multi-billion dollar company. The ball is in your court.
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