Harriet Grantham – A Teenage Perspective

My husband and I are vacationing in the US with our three children at the time of writing this.

Our eldest, Harriet, is 18 years old and has just completed her final year of school having recently sat her A levels.

Harri hopes for results which will get her into Glasgow University, and the alternative is a gap year. The third option of entering employment is being deferred for a few years, much to her parents’ relief.

When editors Karen and Phil invited my view on the subject of Youth Enterprise my thoughts immediately went to Harri and her friends. How prepared are they to enter the world of business?

With so few career jobs available for school leavers and graduates in the current employment market are the government’s Youth Development and Youth Enterprise schemes providing enough education and assistance? With our editors’ permission I invited Harri to take up this article with her thoughts and knowledge of the subject- a kind of view from the coalface:

Harri: I remember a course of lessons in PSHE four, maybe five, years ago in which we participated in something similar to ‘The Game of Life‘. Each student was given a job and told the salary. Numerous sheets of paper detailing the price of different cars, houses, pets and a variety of living expenses were handed out. We then spent half an hour every week living a hypothetical life, budgeting and time-planning accordingly. The problem with this exercise was the lack of choice we were given and how wrongly timed it was.

It would have been much more appropriate at the end of our penultimate year or the beginning of our last year- before we embarked on our rigorous studying for the dreaded A2 exams. At least then we would have appreciated the experience, but as it is all I can remember of those few weeks is that I was given the job of graphic designer and I decided I wanted a rather vintage car and a small cottage. At that age- I was probably thirteen, maybe fourteen- I was adamant that I should be able to afford both a dog and a horse and that my budgeting for food and other such expenses could be compromised to pay for their upkeep.

This ‘game‘, along with numerous tests- including the ‘Moresby Profile‘ which told me to go into marketing, a vocation which I have experienced and though I am highly capable within that line of work, it is not a career I would envision myself spending my life doing. There were also computer programmes establishing what profession I’d be best suited for- again coming out with some badly judged answers: one such programme told me to be an artist; it clearly hadn’t seen my GCSE final piece in which my brother ended up looking like a greying monkey! On first recollection, those few exercises were the extent of my education into the business world.

By all means there were optional courses such as business studies, accounting and critical thinking offered in sixth form which all leant themselves to entrepreneurial students, but for those with less pioneering and more artistic and academic interests, such as myself, there was little in the way of mandatory enterprising education. However, though there is little within the curriculum, after much consideration I have decided there are indeed a whole variety of different ways we were encouraged to be entrepreneurial of our own accord within school.

From a young age we were encouraged to act as efficient teams within our forms. Form captains, charity representatives, subject representatives, even bin monitors were elected to ensure the smooth running of day to day life. The bin monitors emptied the bins, the subject representatives relayed homework from the students to the teachers’ shelves for marking, the charity prefects collected money and organised class events and form captains ran everything else- from seating arrangements to Mr Smith (our form teacher)’s birthday party and present once a year.

This system of forms lasted for five years and then we hit sixth form and the forms dispersed. We were thrust into a more independent system of learning and the choices were piled upon us. In year twelve, my penultimate year, (or as my parents would refer to it: lower sixth) a scheme called ‘Young Enterprise‘ was brought to light. I myself preferred to spend my time on a hockey field or in a drama studio, but for those who wanted experience in the big wide world of business this was the perfect opportunity.

Now, not being one to have participated in this scheme my description of what happens may be a little rough around the edges, but I’ll give it my best shot: each group consists of around six people and they each decide on their role within the team. Together they decide what their business will be- I know one group who ran children’s birthday parties and another who sold CDs of music from local bands and performers; there were too many groups within my year to name them all, but from the examples it is clear that the business plans can be widely varied.

From what I have been told they either invest their own money or find investors, then they use that money to set up and promote their business, and if they are in retail to procure their goods. The aim is to at least break even, if not make a profit. Then all the profit is split between them and possibly their investors. There is an element of competition within the scheme and at the end of the allocated time for their businesses to run there are local conferences nationwide where the groups must present their business models. If I recall correctly many of the groups within my year did quite well and some even went to the next level of the competition.

As we got to our final year we were given roles as prefects. This system ran much like a company; we had our head girl, deputy head girls, senior prefects, specialist prefects and prefects. I was a senior prefect; one of two heads of sixth form. Our role involved a revamp of our common room- from this we learnt it is impossible to collect £5 from one hundred and fifty girls who can find any number of excuses not to pay- to organise and host a ball- we should have started selling tickets earlier- and to organise, order and distribute hoodies and yearbooks- again should have started earlier and been stricter- but overall we succeeded, and learnt a good few things along the way about how to run a business; things like though people may be happier in the short term if you aren’t strict with them, in the long term they won’t be impressed when the delivery date of the goods has to be postponed as some people can’t decide what colour hoodie they want.

When I think of young entrepreneurs I envision the contestants on ‘The Apprentice‘ teenagers‘ special series, or I picture someone who has invented something unique, something Blue-Peter-competition-esque, that will become the next big iPod. In reality the only person I can really think who fits my personal definition of young entrepreneur is my friend who runs her own cleaning business; she sources people, mainly friends from school, to clean offices in the local vicinity. It will not make her millions, nor is it any stroke of genius, but it has her safely on the ladder of the business world.

Though I would not consider myself an entrepreneur, I feel through the practices my school encouraged; the learning of leadership, reliability, how to both wield and obey authority, the half hours we spent learning about finance and budgeting in PSHE, the roles we had to fulfil with little or no help from teachers (and the mistakes we made doing them) have set me in good stead to enter the business world (after my degree of course) with my head held high and a bounty of knowledge behind me.

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