Alice Barnard, chief executive of the Peter Jones Foundation
Last week, the Prime Minister’s enterprise advisor, Lord Young, released his third report on enterprise and business with a specific focus on the relevance of enterprise in education.
It was fantastic to see that the report, Enterprise for All, put a spotlight on enterprise education by involving the breadth of the industry – from education leaders to those shaping policy.
Bringing enterprise to the forefront of education has come not a moment too soon. The report rightly highlights the importance of involving young people with enterprise at an early age – while they are still open to ideas and influences that will shape their future and boost employability.
This is something we have been championing for a decade, putting enterprise at the heart of our education system, through activities like the Peter Jones Enterprise Academy and Tycoon in Schools.
Tycoon in Schools, backed by the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills, is a national enterprise competition that is gearing up to be bigger and better than ever this year allowing thousands of children to get their very first taste of the business world.
Our experience has shown that often the hard work of the students taking part in activities or competitions like this is glossed over by the time they come to exploring their employment prospects later down the line.
One of the key recommendations outlined in Lord Young’s report would combat this very problem through the implementation of an ‘Enterprise Passport’. Although similar initiatives have been explored in the past, this would provide a nationwide template allowing young people to record and demonstrate their enterprise learning.
In today’s competitive job market and ever-changing workplace, we need to give employers a tangible tool to use when on the lookout for recruits who will bring the right skills to their workplace.
Building a record of the variety of skills and experiences students accumulate during their education will give employers much more confidence to hire young people or give them work experience opportunities with their business.
At a time when many employers report how difficult it is to judge young applicants on their educational qualifications alone, this record will give them a fuller picture to include enterprise and employability skills alongside other academic qualifications.
Nurturing the development of ‘soft skills’, such as building confidence and resilience, through enterprise activity is not always easy to measure, or indeed to even teach, and this new initiative is a way of addressing that issue.
We welcome Lord Young’s report and must remember that young people today experience a completely different job market to previous generations. The recommendations laid out are a step towards giving every young person who leaves education the right skills they need to get on and succeed.
Ultimately, if businesses cannot find the employees with the skills they need to drive their firms forward, we all lose out.