Youth unemployment from the office of National Statistics show 957,000 young people aged 16 to 24 were unemployed for the period September to November 2012, up 1,000 on the previous quarter. The future job prospects look bleak in the toughest job market for 20 years.
It is against this economic backdrop that the third series of CBBC's Trade Your Way to the USAwill begin on Monday 15 April at 4.30pm. As the presenter and mentor on the show I have to say this is telly at its best. It's entertaining, educational, motivational, inspirational and full of rich content. I'm proud to be the presenter and mentor on the show and I applaud CBBC for allowing me to treat the young people on it as I would in a real business scenario - no pussy footing around, getting to the point and a no nonsense approach to unacceptable effort.
The boys and girls taking part in the show are aged between 11 and 14 years of age and come from a variety of different backgrounds - black, white, state, private, rich, poor, north, south, and it's this diversity that makes the show so appealing. Many of these young people come to the show with some trading experience already. We have children who raise money for charity, sell goods at car boot sales, sell their artwork to friends and family, buy second-hand goods and sell them at a profit. The simple fact is young people like making money and they like being financially independent.
The show's premise is a simple one: it tests the teams' ability to buy for less, sell for more and make a profit. For each task I give two teams (made up of three young people on each) £75 to trade with. They are given a trading challenge and have a certain product to buy. They then have to negotiate the lowest prices and sell their product the next day on a stall to real customers. The team that makes the most money wins the challenge and only they have a chance to make it through to the Grand Final in the USA and be crowned Britain's Best Young Traders.
I'm always on the lookout for those who can buy in bulk, haggle, negotiate a deal, get freebies, work together, delegate, build customer relations, lead, take initiative, stay calm under pressure and most importantly display confidence and self-belief in their product and business. Many would believe that it's impossible for children as young as this to display these skills to a high level. I would advise these sceptics to watch the show and learn from these budding business brains of the future. In every show, I have been left gob-smacked watching these young people in action, determined to win but also wanting to learn new skills and put them into practice.
As a parent working with these young people I have also realised that whilst formal qualifications are important when it comes to seeking a successful job in the future, what counts more in real life is common sense, confidence, self-belief, self-esteem and drive. It is usually the teams that display these characteristics that manage to win the challenges. Business people are not always academically gifted, but they have the above characteristics in abundance.
Our education system needs to prepare young people leaving school, not just with a varied CV that might help them get a job working for someone else, but to recognise and realise that some young people leaving school could actually start their own business and be the entrepreneurs of the future. The problem, which I believe we have in the primary and secondary education system, is that young people are being taught textbook business theories from teachers who have no business or commercial experience themselves. I would have thought it mandatory in today's economic climate for every school in the UK to have an 'enterprise day', where young people could come together and create their own business to raise money for their school. This would give many young people an exciting business project to get their teeth stuck into and see their ideas come alive. It is this kind of activity that ignites a genuine interest in business and plants the idea that 'I can do this'.
Last year I visited 74 primary schools throughout the UK with the Trade Your Way: Schools Challenge where for each school we took over a year group for a day and shared business skills, tip and ideas. At the end of the day, the children presented their business ideas and explained to us how it would make money for either their school or charity. It was a huge success and many schools signed up to an enterprise day there and then. We left those children buzzing with ideas and a sense they could achieve anything if they put their mind to it.
Trade Your Way to the USA is family viewing at its best and as a business woman myself, I can honestly say, the business tips that are given on the show are well worth remembering by young people and adults alike for anyone wanting to start their own business. Richard Branson watch out!
Trade Your Way to the USAwill begin on Monday 15 April at 4:30pm on the CBBC channel, running every week day until the final on Friday 26 April.