Education, enterprise and employment: these are the key steps to success and they start in P1, Douglas Blane writes
Enterprise in education lies at the heart of Scottish Executive aspirations to make schools more relevant to both pupils and employers. How this will be achieved by building on the highly-regarded Schools Enterprise Programme run by Careers Scotland (which is now entering its third and final year) is becoming clearer.
The Executive's response to Determined to Succeed, the Enterprise in Education Review Group's report, committed pound;40 million over three years to widening the scope of the SEP and its benefits, with teachers trained to deliver enterprise education.
From now on every school pupil, from Primary 1 to Secondary 6, is entitled to do one enterprise activity a year. The delivery model will be less centralised and more market driven than the SEP, with enterprise education providers competing for funding managed by local authorities, which have started working on their enterprise in education plans.
One organisation that hopes to help implement these plans is Young Enterprise Scotland, a private sector funded charity which has been giving schoolchildren a taste of enterprise since 1977.
Director Lynn Hendry was part of the review group. "There was a lot of discussion about whether we have the capacity in this country to deliver one enterprise experience a year to every child. It's a big undertaking.
"Then again, a lot of debate was on whether the focus should be enterprise rather than education for work. We need general skills for employability but we need enterprise too. New businesses bring jobs and people need to be enterprising in existing jobs. We want young people to embrace the whole idea of enterprise."
She believes a greater emphasis on partnership is the key to delivering the step change in enterprise education.
"Local authorities will decide what their schools need and will then work through organisations such as Careers Scotland, with whom we have a strong partnership. So, if a local authority is keen to do two or three things, and Careers Scotland knows we deliver programmes in one area, they will work with us.
"Our efforts will continue to focus on upper secondary. YES is in 77 per cent of secondary schools this year and we work with all types of young people.
"Besides gaining practical skills, children we help to run an enterprise company also gain self-belief and confidence. Some of the biggest gains we see are among children with special needs."
Experience of business failure is part of enterprise education, but it does not always happen. Some children succeed beyond their dreams. Last year Donna MacSween and her sixth-year friends ran a company, with YES support, making and selling calendars with beautiful photographs of Harris, their island home. Their enterprise and personal qualities so impressed the Young Enterprise judges that they won the regional award, then the Scottish finals and were runners-up in the UK finals.
"It was amazing and we learned so much," says Donna, who is now studying history and Gaelic at Glasgow University.
"We learned to work as a team; we gave presentations; we gained an insight into the world of business. It gave us options and let us see whether we wanted to go into business when we left school. It was a different experience from school, like breaking you gently into life after school. I loved it."