Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Vocational or Academic?

Writing in the Guardian (8th March 2011), Tom Bewick, chief executive, Enterprise UK, commenting on the recent Wolf review of vocational education is critical that the report fails to emphasise sufficently that in today's world young people do not need an either or approach to their education - academic or vocational - they need both!

The Wolf report highlights those countries that do better in skills development than the UK, but in contrast tot he UK, these countries spend on average between 1% and 2% more of their GDP on high quality vocational training and apprenticeships.

Over the recent past, in my monthly/termly blogs I have consistently highlighted enterpise skills and qualities as a key transition requirement for our young people, and accordingly called on my careers colleagues to ensure much more enterprise education, especially for the 16 to 19 cohort, be provided within our schools/college curriculum. Significantly, Bewick feels the report falls way short of the opportunity to champion enterprise education in our schools and coleges.

Disappointingly, he states that the report is completely silent on how we develop more entrepreneurial mindsets and skills among our young people. Worrying statistics released recently show that enterprise education within the UK is failing. Make Money, Make a Difference: Backing Britain's Future a new report from Enterprise UK with research commissioned from YouGovStone, reveals that 53% of young people do not feel they are encouraged at school to be entrepreneurial. The common belief that a single pathway from school to university is the only way to get a good job no longer holds sway.

We must challenge and inspire young people with the idea that they can make it happen for themselves - make a job not take a job - by nurturing a new culture of enterprise education, embedding the key ingredients of entrepreneurship into the curriculum.

In a recent pilot competition organised by the Dungannon Enterprise Centre, two local schools participated in an entrepreneurial challenge. Ten teams, comprising five from year 9 and five from year 13, were each 'loaned' £50 to come up with an idea from which they could grow a business. Over a period of time they were mentored by different local business people who  provided them with the support and encouragement to 'grow their business.' At the awards night for the 'Heat is On' held in a local theatre with an invited audience in attendance, each team gave a short presentation on their business and the profit made. In all cases the £50 start-up loan was returned to the mentor with the remainder of the money accrued from the business project, left to the discretion of the 'business' partners, either to re-invest or spend as they wished. It was a thoroughly successful evening made memorable by the many excellent ideas and challenges experienced by the young people.

Lesson Idea

Consider participating in this event should you be given the opportunity in the next academic year. Alternatively, could you take this idea, modify it to suit your school, and run it internally over a term perhaps.

There is no doubt that we need to invest in young talent. Bewick makes the point that this means ending the monopoly universities have over student loan provision. He recommends that the Chancellor should consider announcing a new Youth Investment Trust to replace the Student Loans Company. This would provide young people with access to state-subsidised loans for purposes other than access to higher education, including capital for new start-ups. In addition, developing a network of truly inspirating entrepreneurial colleges should be our major priority.

Government 'not doing enough to encourage women-run firms' 

This headline appeared recently in the Belfast Telegraph (17th April 2011). The govermnet has been urged to do more to encourage female entrepreneurship afetr a report showed that women-owned businesses made up fewer than one in three self-employed organisations.

The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) voiced concern at the numbers of wome-run firms given that 50% of the working population was female. Womens' enterprises contribute around £130 billion turnover and £70 billion Gross Value Added every year. The FSB in their report alluded to the fact that if the UK had the same level of female entrepreneurship as the US there would be 600,000 more women-owned businesses, contributing an extra £42 billion to the economy.

FBS believes female entrepreneurship is an economic resource the Governmemnt has yet to fully tap into within its plans to grow the economy.  The Government is looking towards the private sector to put the economy back on track so it makes common sense to try and encourage and increase the number of women-owned firms across the country.

The Government needs to take positive steps to ensure that self-employment is a real option for both male and female alike.

Lesson Idea

Within the school community identify those pupils whose Parent(s) are in self-employment but especially those mothers/sisters etc who run their own business. Develop a bulletin board to highlight their range of  businesses -products/services.  Consider the role model potential of the examples gathered from the survey. Now extend the scope of female-run businesses to include the wider school environment.  Invite examples from your survey into the school to address the pupils, especially those in the 16 to 19 cohort. 

Budding Traders should aim to make their pitch

A competition has been launched to encourage Belfast's budding entrepreneurs to become market traders.  The National market Traders Federation (NMTF) is running First Pitch.  The competition gives aspiring business people their own market stall for a year, with a cash prize of £2000 for the overall winner. Full details are on the First Pitch section of the NMTF website read more

Lesson Idea

Why not be entrepreneurial yourself and think how you could link up with an organisation like your local Enterprise Body to see if the idea could be modified to suit the needs of the entrepreneurial sixth formers!!

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