25/03/2015 12:44 GMT | Updated 24/05/2015 06:59 BST

Creating an Enterprise Culture in the Chinese Year of the Sheep‭ ‬- Beware of Sheep Dipping

Sheep dipping is no longer a legal requirement,‭ ‬but for many farmers it remains a vital twice yearly event that protects their flock from diseases.‭ ‬The benefits outweigh the costs because sheep dipping works.‭ ‬For sheep,‭ ‬that is.

Sheep dipping is no longer a legal requirement,‭ ‬but for many farmers it remains a vital twice yearly event that protects their flock from diseases.‭ ‬The benefits outweigh the costs because sheep dipping works.‭ ‬For sheep,‭ ‬that is.

How is this relevant to enterprise education‭? ‬And what is sheep dipping in this context‭?

Imagine this:‭ ‬a large group of animals are corralled into a pen and then forced‭ ‬- or should I say encouraged‭ ‬- to swim through a long trough of liquid containing insecticide and fungicide to emerge a little disgruntled but protected.‭ ‬Farmers will tell you that sheep are not generally happy to repeat this exercise.‭ ‬That‭'‬s because,‭ ‬despite what you may think,‭ ‬they are not stupid:‭ ‬research shows that they can learn and remember‭ ‬- and they are not exactly keen swimmers.‭ ‬However,‭ ‬as long as sheep in equals‭ (‬wet‭) ‬sheep out‭ ‬- job done.

Now,‭ ‬let‭'‬s consider business and enterprise education in schools.‭ ‬I admit that might seem like a bit of a jump,‭ ‬yet the way we are currently trying to‭ ‬teach enterprise in schools has many parallels with sheep dipping.‭ ‬First,‭ ‬we must ask why we need to do something to encourage young people to think positively about business and then make sure that they really do have the skills to secure a job or to build their own business.

Currently,‭ ‬according to our own research at Young Enterprise,‭ ‬70%‭ ‬of UK employers say it is difficult to find good quality applicants for entry-level jobs‭; ‬research by the FSB stated‭ ‬37%‭ ‬of firms said the lack of skills was a barrier to growth compared to‭ ‬25%‭ ‬one‭ ‬year earlier‭; ‬43%‭ ‬of UK employers say the education system is not equipping young people with the right skills for them to enter the workforce and‭ ‬92%‭ ‬of employers say it is important to offer enterprise education as part of the national curriculum in schools,‭ ‬even though it is no longer statutory.‭

Lord Young‭'‬s‭ ‬'Enterprise for All‭'‬ report stated that young people‭ ‬"are far more likely to have multiple careers with various employers,‭ ‬ranging from global multinationals to small and micro employers‭"‬ and they‭ ‬are more likely than ever to run their own business.‭ ‬However,‭ ‬RBS‭'‬s Enterprise Tracker‭ (‬2013‭) ‬showed that,‭ ‬although over the last three years the gap between those young people‭ (‬18‭ ‬- 30‭)‬ who want to start a business and those who actually do start one has narrowed,‭ ‬it is still significant,‭ ‬at‭ ‬55%‭ ‬to‭ ‬11%.‭ ‬At the moment we‭'‬re just not giving our young people the skills to start their own business.‭ ‬For the majority,‭ ‬a career as an entrepreneur will remain a dream unfulfilled and that‭'‬s a huge waste of young,‭ ‬enthusiastic economic potential.

Nationally we do accept there is a problem.‭ ‬We know that many young people have unfulfilled aspirations and potential,‭ ‬and,‭ ‬yes,‭ ‬we are doing more than ever before.‭ ‬But it is still not enough.‭ ‬With further investment in skills education we could do so much more to unlock entrepreneurial potential,‭ ‬resulting in huge returns for Britain and our young people.‭

However,‭ ‬right now in schools and beyond,‭ ‬we‭'‬re largely tackling this enterprise-education challenge by‭ ‬'sheep dipping‭'‬ students.‭ ‬Young people will remember when they were subjected to a short lecture-type lesson,‭ ‬seemingly unrelated to any other activity in their school year and they wondered what the point of it was‭? ‬The style and delivery of enterprise-education in schools is fundamental to the scale of rewards it can reap for students and society.

Corralling a large number of young people and putting them through a brief and shallow intervention in the hope that they‭'‬ll swim out the other side fully enterprise-educated‭ ‬and skilled is not a realistic or responsible ambition.‭ ‬Outside of school,‭ ‬it‭'‬s OK to drive around the country in a bus enticing people to be entrepreneurs,‭ ‬or to hold an‭ ‬'Enterprise Convention‭'‬ as long as there is a follow-on plan for the enticed‭ ‬- and that doesn't mean referral to a website that promotes similar dips.‭

Small-scale and short-term exercises,‭ ‬that touch on and talk about enterprise,‭ ‬are unlikely to produce sustainable long-term results.‭ ‬That‭'‬s because sheep dipping young people,‭ ‬unlike sheep dipping sheep,‭ ‬doesn't have clear aims or expectations about the outcomes,‭ ‬only about the outputs.‭ ‬This is very useful for PR purposes but not so much for young people‭'‬s learning.‭ ‬It provides the same experience for all with little or no consideration for the learners‭'‬ needs or their starting points.‭ ‬Real learning opportunities‭ (‬journeys‭) ‬need to be accessible for all and appeal to a range of learning styles including visual,‭ ‬kinaesthetic,‭ ‬auditory and tactile.‭ ‬A significant portion of this journey must include learning by doing.‭ ‬This is the way you embed and develop the key skills of communication,‭ ‬creativity,‭ ‬resilience,‭ ‬problem solving and teamwork.‭ ‬In enterprise sheep dipping,‭ ‬sometimes,‭ ‬the only learning journey is the route to and from the event.‭

For lasting change,‭ ‬we need something different.‭ ‬Learning interventions at their best are long-term,‭ ‬fully immersive‭ (‬no pun intended‭)‬,‭ ‬accessible to a range of learning styles,‭ ‬cumulative and with built in opportunities for reflection and assessment of their personal journey covered so far.

So yes,‭ ‬there may well be a place for initial sheep dipping in enterprise education,‭ ‬but if we want the best for our young people and the best value for taxpayers‭'‬ money,‭ ‬it must be part of a cohesive strategy that embeds enterprise education across the curriculum for every age group.‭ ‬If we find the will,‭ ‬the leadership and the funding to do this we would create a sustainable,‭ ‬world-beating enterprise culture,‭ ‬led by hundreds of thousands of skilled and inspired young game-changers.‭ ‬That‭'‬s how to create an Enterprise Culture.