In the Spring Budget, the UK Chancellor stated that equipping young people for the jobs of tomorrow is the only way of ensuring they have real economic security. He went on to announce funding for new free schools, improvements for existing schools and 1,000 new PhD places and fellowships for STEM subjects to help the UK's credentials in science and innovation. He also announced T-levels, a new career-focused qualification system alongside an increase in work placements to ensure young people are work ready.
This investment in education demonstrates clear ambition in supporting young people to join tomorrow's workforce - a measure which will help boost skills, nurture talent and increase employability. However, there is one area which is being overlooked. Of course it is important to train young people ready for their future career but do we run the risk of stemming their potential and limiting their horizons far too early?
You often hear education providers being told they need to make young people 'work ready'. But they also need to learn the right processes and the practical skills to allow them to realise their potential as budding entrepreneurs too. The future of business, innovation and entrepreneurship lies within the next generation. Who knows how many of tomorrow's entrepreneurs are currently sat in a classroom or lecture theatre? This is a generation like no other; they've never known a life without technology which means they have the resource of the globe at their fingertips at any time of day, instantly, and using it has become innate for them. The potential for what this generation can achieve is growing by the day.
The key to success in enterprise education is about being innovative ourselves. Young people don't just need to be taught the skills of a particular job, they need to make sure that they can convert their potential into inspired ideas, inventions and innovations which will have the biggest possible impact on both our economy and our society.
I know about the barriers to entrepreneurialism all too well. When I was 25, I had an idea for a new recruitment business. I felt inspired and went to visit my bank manager but I wasn't ready for what faced me. He asked me sensible questions but I didn't have the answers. I was in that creative, buzzy stage and hadn't captured my idea into a business plan. I nearly quit but a passion inside me spurred me on and after a lot of research, I started the business myself using my credit card and sold my car to pay the bills. Three years on, I had a successful firm that was bought out by a larger agency. Before starting my current company, a fast-growing ed-tech, I spent 12 years working within government and education helping promote business development, entrepreneurship and helping students start up their own businesses. I realised that my experience wasn't unique. You can have the best idea in the world but unless you know how to turn that entrepreneurial spark into a viable business, you run a very real risk of failure. I can only imagine how many would-be entrepreneurs there are out there that abandon their dream because they can't make that conversion.
Now I know we need to pioneer a society-wide cultural change in how we harness the future of entrepreneurship. We need to break down boundaries and equip young people with the tools and skills they need to take that all important leap in starting a business.
Some education institutions do have courses or departments dedicated to entrepreneurship and business development; and that's a fantastic step in the right direction. But this is a culture that needs to be embraced across the board. We've seen some great examples of this starting to happen; for instance, we work with one university which runs entrepreneurship sessions with their students across every department. So whether they're studying a science, sport or geography, they're not excluded from learning these essential skills. This needs to become the norm - not the exception - and is the future of enterprise education.
Our schools, colleges and universities are a hot bed for innovation and entrepreneurship. And if we truly want to be known as a society that fosters entrepreneurship, we have to make it happen - not just talk about it.