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working with young people around enterprise

Zareena Abidi explores some of the key approaches to education for enterprise - and some of the issues involved in working in this area. 

contents: introduction · the main approaches · what are we seeking to achieve? · some issues · conclusion

photo: cumbria youth enterpriseBusiness plays an essential role in our society. It produces merchandise, it conveys services, it develops people and their skills, it creates employment, and it embodies attitudes and values. It is conducted – quite literally – 24 hours a day, every day, in every nation on earth. In every nation, human beings are affected directly and indirectly, intentionally and unintentionally by this extraordinary confluence of enterprise, commerce and society. To give an example, ponder for a while and consider the number of businesses, workers and systematic processes that are involved in making one cup of coffee?

We all profit from enterprise, and for business and economic regeneration to flourish, we need an enterprise culture. To achieve this, in my opinion, we need to develop three areas:

We need a better understanding of business and the part it plays in our day to day lives

We need to be aware of the broad societal forces that have become so much part of modern life and the networks of social relations that they have produced e.g. political revolution, global environmental issues.

We need to develop the competitiveness of our business community

Government, business leaders and education forums are placing an increasing emphasis on enterprise and more importantly, preparing the young ‘business’ people of the future for working life. Underpinning this is a belief that young people need to be more adaptable than ever before. They need to be prepared to change career direction in response to opportunity and learn new skills throughout their working lives. These future entrepreneurs need to be more flexible, show improved communication skills, have a willingness to take responsibility and show initiative. In other words they need to be ‘enterprising’.

I believe it takes more than just knowing how a business works or how wealth and employment are created to be enterprising, it is also about inspiring creativity, ambition, diversity and an atmosphere where ideas are in abundance.

Main approaches used

My main work has been with a national educational charity called Young Enterprise, which was founded in 1963. It was established to forge links between schools and industry and to bridge the gap between school and the world of work. Young Enterprise’s mission is to:

 ‘inspire and equip young people to learn and succeed through enterprise’

Young Enterprise operates a number of programmes for young people on a ‘learning by doing’ principle. The Company, Team and Graduate Programmes include setting up and running their own company, raising share capital, electing a board of directors, marketing and financing a product or service of their own choice, presenting a report and accounts to their shareholders.

In Entrepreneurship Masterclasses, Project Business and The Primary Programme young people learn about aspects of business from the first hand experience of business volunteers.

In all the Young Enterprise Programmes, the success relies on the active involvement of an education partner (teacher/ youth leader) and volunteers from business. It is these volunteers who make the learning experience work for the 76,624 young people who take part each year. Acting as ‘business advisers’ the volunteers bring business knowledge and skills, as well as management expertise to the Young Enterprise Company they work with. In the year 2000/ 2001 there were 7,365 business advisers and over 2000 supporting companies who helped channel the enthusiasm of the young people into running a successful business.

It is during these projects that young people learn and develop key skills, which are necessary not only for the world of work but also for day to day life e.g. communication and problem solving skills, teamwork and life skills etc. Some examples of benefits that can be gained from participation in an enterprise project are:

An understanding of how business works and how wealth is created

The ability to work in a team

Improved communication skills

Increased enthusiasm and self-confidence

Willingness to take responsibility and show initiative

Time management

Effective work and social skills

The openness of these projects allow young people to think for themselves and deal with the issues that may arise, guided by their business and education advisers.

Another side to this is that young people can be enterprising anywhere. Whether it is in a school, a youth centre, a church group, a club or society, wherever young people meet there is an opportunity for work. Working with young people where they are at, will assist in the process of understanding how business has an effect on our every day lives and the communities in which we live.

What are we seeking to achieve?

My work is specifically aimed at making a positive impact with young people, raising aspirations through the development of vital life skills, creating a positive and enthusiastic attitude and getting them to realise the value of learning/education, to benefit their own futures.

In my role as a Programme Development Manager, a key objective is to present opportunities where young people can release their potential entrepreneurial flair. This includes challenging young people to think about starting their own business or their choice of career path. It is also about exploring the ‘diversity’ that is required in today’s business world.

Living and working in a rural part of the country, I am aware of the issues now facing the farming and agricultural industry. The rural economy faces considerable challenges and is changing rapidly. As a consequence fewer farms rely solely on the farming business as the only source of income. They are diversifying. In the UK 4 out of 10 farmers supplement farm income by some other activity[1]. It was reported in a study of farm diversification that many diversified businesses could achieve better results if they applied some basic business and marketing principles to their enterprises (Dalton 1989)[2]. This highlights the fact that today’s workforce needs to be adaptable.

‘Enterprise projects’ have a role to play in increasing awareness, innovation and developing a holistic view of the basic business skills required to bridge the gaps, which are now being identified.

In my work I strive to achieve an atmosphere of ‘innovation’ i.e. the successful exploitation of new ideas. An encouraging environment is cultivated, by realising the potential in all young people -  “A good idea doesn’t care who has it”. It is about having a vision to run a project that could make a difference to them and the communities in which they live.

Various issues to be considered

Virtually all nations on earth face the challenge of developing the economy of the future and education will play a vital role in that growth. Economists are agreeing on the importance knowledge has, as a vital economic resource.

The workplace is an important part of the business environment. In most places, productivity is still dependent on the skills and abilities of human workers. Skills such as how to organise, motivate and effectively channel energy into enterprise, will be central to all businesses, large or small.

As the workforces’ knowledge increases, aspirations for fulfilment, appreciation and happiness in the place of work will grow. In the 21st century knowledge, skills and opportunities could emanate as never before.

As I mentioned in my introduction, awareness of broader societal issues need to be given the consideration they demand because they have become so much a part of modern life. ‘Business’ has been involved in many stages of social change and therefore must take responsibility in designing solutions or rationales, to the issues of our time. This means in turn that each of us, as managers, as workers, as citizens, also have a responsibility to understand the issues and respond. I feel we can no longer say “this is not our area, therefore it is not our problem”.

Those involved in work with young people have the scope to prepare them for the future, whatever their role maybe. I believe that the responsibility of this work does not just lie with ‘enterprise lead’ projects but with all organisations, whether environmental, political, or sociological. No particular profession or interest group has a monopoly on ‘entrepreneurial’ development work. Teachers, parents, youth workers, adult educators etc. all need to take an equitable share of the ‘enterprise cake’.

In the governments white paper ‘learning to succeed’ it identified that learning partnerships have a key role to play in identifying and addressing gaps in enterprise provision. To achieve this, organisations need to be working together, crossing over paths to drive forward improvements, raise achievements and meet local area needs.

Organisations will need to accept that part of this entrepreneurial development may require themselves to go though a period of change. Those that can accept transition, possibly extending their boundaries to accommodate new visionary ideas or ways of working i.e. working outside of their ‘box’, are themselves, in fact, being enterprising.

In conclusion

To conclude, as we steadily move into the 21st century we are challenged to think about critical trends, ethical climates and social issues and the effects these have on businesses and individuals. It requires that young people, our future workforce, are aware of the individual part they need to play in their community and in society in general.

As a worker, it is about understanding the role I need to play and the opportunities I need to facilitate, to release potential entrepreneurial flair.

Creating an enterprising society that provides opportunities for companies and for people necessitates that government, businesses and non-profit organisations, work together to meet these challenges.

[1] (Information taken from: A Study of the Support Requirements for Young Entrepreneurs in Rural Areas of the Borders)

[2] (Information taken from: A Study of the Support Requirements for Young Entrepreneurs in Rural Areas of the Borders)

© Zareena Abidi 2001. Last update: July 08, 2014