Why Schools Should Encourage Entrepreneurship

Why Schools Should Encourage Entrepreneurship

While business innovation moves at peregrine falcon speeds, our schools are still playing catch up. The academies and free school programme, first introduced in 2002, is transforming the country's educational landscape, but most schools still do not teach what should be the centrepiece of a contemporary education: entrepreneurship. This isn't to say that all schoolchildren must become entrepreneurs; rather that we want graduates able to think outside the box and equipped with the skills necessary for the modern economy.

Today, Business Secretary Sajid Javid will be launching the APPG for Entrepreneurship - of which The Entrepreneurs Network is Secretariat. The cross-party group, in the Secretary of State's words, will "make sure the voice of entrepreneurs is heard loud and clear in Parliament". One complaint we hear more often than any other from the entrepreneurs in our network is that they lack the talent they need to scale. Many feel our "antiquated" education system is to blame.

The APPG, which is chaired by Alan Mak MP, will focus on four policy areas in its first 12 months, areas we feel the government must crack if the UK is to maintain its position as one of the best places in the world to start and grow a business: exporting, female entrepreneurship, tax reform - and enterprise education.

But we mustn't be too critical. The government is more supportive of British entrepreneurs than ever before. We have an entrepreneur-friendly tax framework and entrepreneurs here operate in an environment of business-friendly regulation. At the beginning of 2015, there were 5.4m businesses in the private sector, representing an increase of almost 150,000 from the previous four months, and an astonishing 1.9m increase from 2000.

And the UK isn't short of entrepreneurial whizzkids: the number of under-35s starting businesses in the UK rose by more than 70 per cent between 2006 and 2014, according to data from Duedil and Enterprise Nation. As more and more young role models come through the pipeline (think Nick D'Aloisio, who, aged 17, sold his news app Summly to Yahoo for a reported $30m; or Ella Woodward, whose debut cookbook Deliciously Ella flew off the shelves), we can expect future generations to follow suit and take the plunge.

However, in a recent survey of 15 to 18-year olds, 80 per cent said they would rather work for a well-established company, and half said they didn't want to take any risks when it comes to making money. Could it be that we are failing to give entrepreneurship legitimacy in our schools? At our Regional Voices roundtable last year, former education minister Iain Wright MP worried that our education system was "worse than an industrial model. It's a system that was designed for the empire."

Sarah Drinkwater, head of Google's Campus London, recently told the Telegraph that uncertainty in the job market is to blame. "In careers sessions at schools, students are finding that the jobs they will be going into five years' down the line probably haven't been invented yet." Showing entrepreneurship is a credible driver of economic growth, not as a fallback if you can't get a job with a large corporation, will help tackle this issue.

And there are now dozens of schemes available at the national and local level to help promote entrepreneurship among young people. The School Enterprise Challenge, the Stock Market Challenge, Tycoon in Schools, the National Enterprise Challenge, the Mosaic Enterprise Challenge, Shares4Schools, MyBnk Back my Business and Speakers4Schools are all helping equip students with the skills needed to thrive in a modern workplace. We are mindful of the great work these organisations carry out, and the APPG will seek their input on where the gaps are and what the policy consensus is.

Nonetheless, the business community could be incentivised and encouraged to be more actively involved in enterprise and entrepreneurship. Founders4Schools - which gives students access to inspiring business leaders in their community who help them discover the skills and pathways that will be relevant when they leave education - is exactly the sort of initiative we need. We want all students in the UK to be well-informed about their future options, and motivated to succeed and lead enterprising lives.

On Monday 6th June, Rt Hon Sajid Javid MP, Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, launched the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Entrepreneurship, chaired by Alan Mak MP, at Terrace Pavilion, House of Commons.


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