State and private school kids face damaging gap in enterprise skills | City A.M.


GOVERNMENTS across the world are working to close the gap between education and the workplace. High youth unemployment has focused attention on schools’ ability to prepare young people to compete for jobs, and concerns over growth are shining a spotlight on whether education systems encourage and enable sufficient numbers of young people to become entrepreneurs.

A report published today by the Education and Employers Taskforce and Pearson ThinkTank, highlights widespread variation in access to entrepreneurship education in schools. It sets out the first findings of a review of the future of enterprise education. Supported by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), its publication coincides with a visit to William Morris Sixth Form in west London by Lord Young, the Prime Minister’s enterprise adviser, and follows Monday’s launch of the £82.5m start-up loans scheme for young entrepreneurs.

A nationally representative survey of 1,002 young people, aged 19-24 years, was undertaken by YouGov for the review. Those who studied at grammar or independent schools were more than twice as likely to have experienced long-term entrepreneurship competitions than peers educated in non-selective state schools. This gap must be addressed if the UK is to be globally competitive.

One obstacle facing ordinary state schools is free access to volunteers, with experience of running their own businesses or social enterprises, willing to come into schools to talk to pupils about their own experience.

To close the gap between classroom and workplace, the Education and Employers Taskforce and BIS are working to create an army of enterprise champions, people with first-hand insights into running an enterprise, to volunteer a couple of hours a year to talk to young people about the reality of self-employment. This new volunteering programme is for everyone, from organisations of every size and sector. Managed through Inspiring the Future, which launches in July, it’s an important step in levelling the playing field for state schools.

On average, 30 per cent of young adults recall enterprise activities. But much higher proportions (close to 40 per cent) of former grammar and independent school pupils report participation than their peers from non-selective state schools (27 per cent). Such activities became more popular over the last decade. And large proportions of those involved, especially if they undertook them over the age of 16, say that taking part, even in one-day business competitions, made a difference to them in deciding on a career, getting a job after education or getting into higher education.

For a smaller number of schools, enterprise education is more akin to an educational philosophy, which privileges learning-through-doing across a wide range of tasks. The purpose is more than giving a pupil a taste of entrepreneurial life, but to build personal confidence and attitudes commonly described as employability skills. In such enterprising schools, pupils have extensive opportunities to come into contact with employers. And there is good evidence that, after controlling for attainment levels, young adults who encountered high numbers of employers while in school are much less likely to be Neet – not in education, employment, or training – at 19 to 24 and, if in employment, earn much more than their peers who went through their school days without the benefit of employer involvement. There are compelling reasons for employers to act to secure their own future talent pipelines, by helping young people to understand better the complexity of the modern labour market and successful approaches to securing the career aspirations.

Pupils are particularly attentive to professionals they come into contact with, building their understanding of the reality of labour market opportunities and successful career navigation. In contrast to independent schools, where parental and alumni networks provide easy access to employee volunteers, state schools typically have weaker organisational contacts. This is why Inspiring the Future can make such a difference.

Anthony Mann is head of policy and research at the Education and Employers Taskforce. Enterprise Education – Value and Direction is released today.

Paul Champion

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