05/02/2013 07:35 GMT | Updated 06/04/2013 06:12 BST

Embracing Change: Let's Make This Year Count

For five years now, Britain's economy has struggled through the worst downturn in post-war history. Young people are among the worst affected from the financial crisis, as they deal with far fewer job opportunities, coupled with the rising cost of living and sharp increases in tuition fees for universities.

However, despite the doom and gloom, there are countless reasons to be optimistic about the future - and I for one am extremely positive about what opportunities lie ahead.

With 2013 now well underway, I believe Britain should make this the year for growth and the year for opportunity.

If the celebrations of last summer taught us anything, it's that we are extremely fortunate to live in one of the greatest nations on earth. The Queen's Diamond Jubilee, followed by the London Games were a national celebration of what it means to be British and reminded many of us what our country had achieved on the global stage.

But celebrations such as these should not stop there. We should encourage the celebration of success to inspire young people to achieve great things.

As a nation, we are inherently afraid of failure, while in America, people are encouraged to take risks. This is the nature of an entrepreneur, a fearless, ambitious and passionate risk taker, and I believe that we need to create more people of this nature to think big and be ambitious.

At the Peter Jones Foundation, our network of Peter Jones Enterprise Academies are aiming to do just that - to unlock the hidden potential among young people, so that they can realise their dreams and ultimately go for it in business.

This month, we are delighted to welcome His Royal Highness, the Duke of York KG as patron of the Peter Jones Foundation. For the Foundation - and for the Academies in particular - this is hugely exciting and takes our mission to greater heights. With the help of His Royal Highness, we want to celebrate the passion and entrepreneurial potential of young people in the UK, by providing students with real hands-on business skills and the confidence to become self-starters.

Because in today's tough climate, there has never been greater need for young people to take their own initiative and to think about starting up their own business.

Further Education has a crucial role to play. Through FE colleges, we are able to reach out to those students who want to learn about business in a practical, hands-on way, but who had not previously been given the opportunity to do so.

Our BTEC courses are specifically designed to prepare young people for the 21st Century workplace so that they can have the best possible chance of future success.

And with university tuition fees at such high levels, we want to show students that there are alternative routes to secure a successful career.

Degrees, while valuable for certain careers, are not the only path to take, and in many cases serve as a hindrance, leaving students thousands of pounds in debt and no closer to their dream job than when they began the course.

As university applications closed last month, we also learnt that submissions were down 6.6 per cent last year - suggesting that young people are already adjusting their behavior and looking for alternative paths.

The world is changing and Britain's economy is shifting. In January, two of Britain's biggest high street chains - HMV and Blockbuster - went into administration after they were unable to adapt to the changing retail landscape. What's clear is that in today's world, businesses need 'intrapreneurs', employees with the passion, innovation and drive to help them thrive and adapt to the changing landscape.

It is young people that are at the forefront of this change as they will lead this country in generations to come. So let's celebrate their passions, let's inspire their dreams and let's show them they can achieve whatever they want.

Let's make this year count.