How enterprise can empower young people to tackle youth unemployment

by Lee Marsham

Youth unemployment is a national crisis that has been worsening steadily in the last few years and has increased to unprecedented levels in recent times.

With financial tightening well underway and no sign of it loosening any time soon, it is hard to see an obvious solution to the problem from within our current leaders in many of our sectors of work. Why?

Today we are faced with a generation of leaders who only know how to put programmes in place with government support and incentives, both of which are on shortening supply.

As of yet no one has adapted to the new austere times.

It seems that only young people themselves can solve youth unemployment. But in order to enable young people to achieve this, we need to capitalise on the business capacity that they can provide.

This can only be achieved through a radical reshaping of the current curriculum so it entrenches entrepreneurship into young people.

Through some of my volunteering experiences I have often delivered enterprise sessions in primary and secondary schools. In most cases, these sessions are arranged as a once-a-year enterprise day or week, and only the name and format varies from school to school.

It is nothing more than a curiosity – a change to the usual school day.

Through delivering these sessions I’ve witnessed first-hand how engaged many of the students become, where students can express their own ideas and creativity for possibly the first time. Often the underperforming students rise to the top, displaying levels of competence not normally seen during the normal school year.

And then that’s it.

That day or week is over and nothing is ever followed up. That short-term confidence boost that some students receive or the wetting of their appetite for future enterprises fades as quickly as it came.

There are already good examples of programmes that are engaged with this sort of work (the Young Enterprise Company Programme is one of them), but too often they are only in the good schools that need them least, as only those schools can pay for the service provision.

By making it part of the curriculum these programmes can be expanded and become common in all schools. This will create generations of future young people who so often have the ideas and drive but lack the skills and confidence to apply them. By giving them real-life school enterprise experience this will change.

In addition, much could be gained by levelling post-school playing field combining the application for all options available to school-leavers under one system, similar to that of UCAS.

This could combine apprenticeships with the traditional “academic” options and would work well under a system where all students have to stay engaged with education up until the age of 18.

This would provide a strong message that the diverse career or education options available to students are equal, and provide them with a greater knowledge of all that is available to them.

However, there is an opportunity to offer more than just those two options on the table. A third option could be made available – to give students now confident in enterprise an opportunity to take out a loan of up to £9,000 to kick start their own business.

The loan would work in entirely the same way as the tuition fees and only be paid back once the entrepreneur starts earning at a certain level.

This would provide a low-risk way of getting capital to start-up entrepreneurs at a time when banks are so reluctant to lend, it would utilise an existing framework, and it would send a powerful and positive message to students that there are many paths to, and definitions of, success.

Lee Marsham was the winner of the recent Pragmatic Radicalism Top of the Policies event on tackling youth unemployment

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4 Responses to “How enterprise can empower young people to tackle youth unemployment”

  1. julie park says:

    Hi Lee

    Just read your article. I whole heartedely agree with you. The young need to know that academia, i.e. sixth form, university is not the be all that is proported in today’s society. My son is just one of those who could so have benefited from this whilst in school, sadly he is now out of education and still thrashing about trying to find his way in life and he is 28!! Although he is, sadly, not alone, I am hearing the same complaints from parents from all walks of life regarding their 20 somethings. Something needs to be done and done as a matter of urgency! I hope this gets to the right ears of the party, this is a real solution in preventing any further wasted directionaless generations. As to my son and the other 20 somethings – well they too need help and they need it urgently which is something I am seriously applying my mind too, but first I need to find a platform on which I can reach them, that too I am seriously working on. Great to hear a freethinker putting practical solutions forward, keep pushing and again, make sure that the two Eds get to read it!!

  2. Alex Clarke says:

    Fair does. But obviously ethical enterprise would need to be emphasised so that the benefits will be for society as a whole and not just personal gain.

  3. Lee, this is a fantastic article and one I can relate with. We need to incorporate entrepreneurship into the national curriculum in schools and colleges.

    I benefited from the enterprise start up scheme in University and your suggestion on financial support for young people with business ideas and an interest is spot on. I must say that they would need ongoing mentorship and training to fully develop and market their ideas.

    I love what organisations like ShellLIVEWIRE are doing. On a larger scale a national curriculum with the right support will give young people the platform and opportunity they need to shine.

    At myTaskAngel we recognise that everyone has a skill and so we have created a platform where people can showcase and monetize their skills.

  4. Youth unemployment is a serious problem not only in UK, but across all the world.Most of young people spend lots of time,energy, take out student loans, do everything only for just one goal : to get a well-paid job and make successful career.Some employers do not want to hire young profuissional just because they lack job experience, but where will you take a job experience if no one wants to hire you? Closed circle.To my mind, recent graduates should pay attention to work in schools for example like an assistants and use every chance to get a job experience in their field and according their skills.

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