Personally, I am an advocate for university education but have always maintained it is a life experience, rather than a job guarantee.
It’s a chance to grasp your independence, expand your peer group and discover your potential. After three to four years the outcome is not about what you get, it’s more about who you’ve become in the process. That said, I think our education system is failing to address the core life skills our young people need to make it in what is becoming a more dynamic, global and fast moving economy. Alongside educational/technical skills they need emotional resilience and an entrepreneurial mindset. Neither subject is given much focus within secondary or higher education and we will pay the price for this as a nation.
I know I am generalising here and I acknowledge the work some institutions are doing to encourage a more enterprising culture, indeed I have been invited to speak at an event being hosted by Lancaster University next month to encourage female students to identify entrepreneurship as a realistic option and as an Ambassador for women in business in the North West I am well aware of the plethora of government led initiatives and programmes in operation in this area. They are doing great work, however, in my experience they tend to target the students in secondary school that are weak academically and more likely to follow a vocational route.
What messages are we projecting here?
That entrepreneurs do not need education or visa versa?
That you either start a business or get an education?
That if you are academically bright starting a business is a waste of your talent? That business is for dummies?
Do I need to continue?
I have seen first hand how our schools are fixated on exam success as this is the only performance measure that guarantees future funding and jobs, so the dominating ethos is if you cannot take a GCSE in it, it is deemed unnecessary. As far as I know emotional resilience, mental toughness and entrepreneurship are NOT GCSE subjects. Sad but true. Many teachers are frustrated by the system and many have left the profession because of it.
Earlier this year I developed and piloted a 3 month intervention programme for 15/16 year old girls in a Blackpool school. These girls were deemed academically able of achieving 5 A-C GCSE grades but had started to disengage from school at the critical time and the school recognised the need for a different approach to refocus them and raise their aspirations. The programme, called GIRLS OUT LOUD used a combination of group work, one to one coaching, mentoring and role model input to create shifts in behaviour, aspirations, self belief and identity. 90% of all the challenges these girls were facing had nothing to do with school. They were focused on family patterns and lack of role models, low self esteem and therefore lack of aspiration, identity issues, relationship and peer group challenges and an inability to visualise a positive future or a different future than that of their immediate family/circle. I.e. if no-one in their family had been to University then they could not go, if no-one in their family had ever had their own business how can they? If no-one in their family had created wealth then not likely they would etc.
The pilot was a huge success, these girls found their voice, found their place and found themselves, but more important than that, they developed some emotional resilience that will support them in life, regardless of the choices and challenges ahead. Without this we are enslaving our youngsters to a life driven by fear, hopelessness and unrealised expectations.
The bottom-line….. We are not doing enough to prepare our next generation for life after full time education. For many the entrepreneur route is more feasible than the job option but they neither recognise this, value it, nor have the mindset or self belief to exploit it. If we are serious about economic recovery and sustainability and putting Britain back on the world stage as a player as opposed to a museum! We need to nurture and foster a more entrepreneurial culture and this starts way before the job delusions set in.
To find out more about GIRLS OUT LOUD visit www.wellheeleddivas.com
Editors Note: All of the girls in the Girls Out Loud project performed well beyond the school’s and their own expectations….Jane had faith in these girls and gave them the confidence to believe in themselves, to apply themselves and focus on their examinations. The girls are off to college and they now have a dream to follow, thanks to the inspiration of Jane and the Girls Out Loud project.
HUGE CONGRATULATIONS TO ALL