Don't confuse business skills with entrepreneurship

27th August 2010 at 01:00
Too often, graduates and school leavers entering the labour market do not possess that entrepreneurial skill set desired, or required, by many employers.

Traditional business studies courses equip students with a wealth of valuable theoretical business knowledge, but there has been confusion between entrepreneurship and business studies. Enterprise is not the mechanics of setting up and running a business, but a confidence that you have the knowledge and the right mindset to be successful. Many people think you are born with it. I disagree. The skills can be taught.

It was this that inspired me to set about establishing the National Enterprise Academy (NEA), the UK's first education establishment solely dedicated to teaching enterprise and entrepreneurship. In partnership with Edexcel, we developed two unique qualifications. The first is the level 2 BTEC Diploma in Understanding Enterprise and Entrepreneurship, the second is the level 3 BTEC Diploma in Enterprise and Entrepreneurship.

From the start, our objective was aligning the skills we teach to the enterprising skill set that business needs. In September 2009, at the beginning of our first full academic year, many thought such a new qualification was all very well, but questioned how they would differ from existing provision.

The qualifications capture the essence of entrepreneurship. It's a world away from the normal classroom environment, with a pioneering curriculum that features input from a range of entrepreneurs who support experienced teachers in the delivery. Using a constructivist teaching approach which embraces practical learning with a variety of concrete experience, the 50 students were constantly exposed to real issues in real-life business environments, enabling them to develop the entrepreneurial mindset and self-confidence that are vital for business success.

Students worked with more than 260 local businesses and global organisations (such as Orange and Manchester City Football Club) and developed a rounded skill-set that means they can hit the ground running when they enter the world of work.

Embedded in the curriculum is the opportunity to pitch for employment to businesses as part of our commitment to ensuring all learners have a solid destination after the course - across the two campuses, 60 per cent of students have employment and 35 per cent are to continue into FE or HE. Of those who have employment, 40 per cent did so through an NEA opportunity.

Peter Jones Entrepreneur and founder of the National Enterprise Academy; "dragon" on BBC2's `Dragons' Den'.

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