Lord Young's enterprise education report: The small business reaction

Dan Martin
Former editor
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Entrepreneurs respond to the publication of a report into enterprise education by Lord Young in which he recommends a range of reforms.
Xenios Thrasyvoulou, founder and CEO, PeoplePerHour
"If the suggestions in today's report were put into practice, it would be another step in the right direction for UK entrepreneurship. There has long been a gaping hole in the education system when it comes to preparing the next generation of entrepreneurs for life in the business world. Typically schools and university courses have not given focus to what running a business is actually like, leaving graduates with bright ideas but perhaps without some of the practical skills to follow them through."
Henry Catchpole, CEO, Inform Direct:
"Lord Young may be overly optimistic that teaching young school children how to set up a business and make a profit will foster a new wave of 'tiny tycoons'.  However, that is not to say the idea shouldn’t be welcomed. Indeed, ‘business' could be a great topic for practicing the 3Rs which after all are the fundamental skills that everyone needs whatever career path they choose. The Fiver Challenge, if done in groups could be very rewarding for young people and could help them develop key skills.  
"However, it's important to stress that where the idea is embraced it will be vital that schools do not simply equate success with the amount of profit made. Any businessman will tell you that their greatest lessons in business have been learned from what didn’t work!"
Chris Wood, founder, Incorporatewear:
"Any development work on the development of education, and its integration into the commercial sector, is welcomed. However, Lord Young’s report continues to focus on two misconceptions. First, that academic achievement and the quality of education can be directly linked to long-term financial value [The publication of a Future Employment and Earnings Record after leaving education] and, second, that business and enterprise can be taught in schools and colleges under existing teaching regimes [Embedding enterprise flavour into new curriculum materials and examinations / Providing teachers with experience in business as part of their Continuous Professional Development].
"These fallacies surely strike at the heart of the problem. The basis of the moribund and stifling UK education system is fundamentally misaligned to the development of entrepreneurial talent, which relies on creativity, the breaking of taboos and innovation. None of these can be examined in a traditional sense. Equally, assessing the perceived quality of teaching and education on students’ earnings over 20, 30 or more years seems a meaningless exercise in trying to connect the irreconcilable.
"Perhaps, rather than looking to tackle business education head-on, Lord Young could have looked at ways to develop the core criteria of business: the breadth of imagination of children and students and the absence of fear in questioning the status quo. Education might beneficially not be understood simply as a financial investment, or just to meet the challenges of today. Conversely it could be seen as an opportunity to  explore the impossible, create confidence in risking innovative ideas and as preparation for the next century of change. There seems little scope for this as the report stands. However, were this the case “the relevance of enterprise in education” could certainly be argued more strongly."
Elizabeth Hudson, joint managing director, Cream:
"Lord Young is definitely on to something. The sooner children learn about the value of money, and the effort it takes to earn it, the better. Entrepreneurship isn't for everyone, we all need employees too, but the wider skills projects like the Fiver Challenge teach are hugely important. And it also offers children who might not be engaged in traditional subjects or struggle academically another chance to shine."
Michelle Wright, founder, Cause4:
"I applaud Lord Young's call for instilling the concept of enterprise into young people. In the UK, we need to create more opportunities early and give students the tools to succeed. However, although the operations of running a business can certainly be taught, the creativity, boldness to take risks and taking an idea and turning it into a sustainable business are instincts and not everyone is suited to be an entrepreneur.
"In-classroom training isn't enough and the volunteer network of ‘enterprise advisors’ is a great step in giving students access to the world of enterprise because, for me, teaching entrepreneurship is about creating a mindset and developing people rather than the end goal of owning a company."
Charlie Mullins, managing director, Pimlico Plumbers:
"It’s really great to hear that there are plans in the pipeline to introduce more entrepreneurial attitudes into our schools. Even if doesn't spur on youngsters to want their own business – it would equip them with more knowledge of businesses and the economy.
"It's looking promising for the vocational side of education that urgently needs more recognition. I've been saying for quite some time that most youngsters just haven’t been prepared for life after school or university in terms of work. It’s definitely encouraging to read and to see there being more support for those wanting to get into a skilled trade or start their own business."
Arnab Dutt, managing director, Texane:
"I welcome any move that would encourage an enterprise culture for future generations, and arranging an eco system in our schools and colleges to promote entrepreneurship can only be good for the UK economy. One thing I would question is the plan to have schoolteachers go into businesses for a week or two as a way of equipping them with the knowledge to teach basic business principles to students. That is not nearly long enough for someone who has not experienced business before. It would be much better to look for teachers who have had business experience and have them build relationships with businesses and lead the classes on business fundamentals." 
Richard Healy, co-founder and vice president of technology and design, BaseKit:
"I'm pleased to see the UK finally waking up to the fact that the skill set of young people is something that needs to be addressed, particularly in the changing face of the business world now that technology companies are taking centre stage. Projects such as the Fiver Challenge should be an integral part of our education system, yet this doesn't even scratch the surface in terms of what needs to be done. the government needs to invest far more in preparing the next generation of workers for the digital economy.
As the economy and business landscape changes, then education needs to do the same, and adapt to teach young people the skills to thrive in a digital, global economy. A perfect example of this was the effort by government to bring coding into the classroom, which as far as I'm concerned, is better late that never. These are the skills that will give young people the confidence to go out there and do things themselves, start up that new business, and become the business leaders of tomorrow."


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