Young Enterprise – we really have missed the point

Without hesitation, every time I speak in schools where academic prowess is the number one value and outcome demanded by all, the most popular question I get asked, (only when the teachers have left the room or over break, obviously) is ‘Miss, if you were me would you go to University.’
My answer is always the same, it really does not matter what you do so long as you do it well and you enjoy it. If University calls go and rock it, don’t cruise. The key is to shine. Whether that is as an Oxford academic or a Barista at Costa Coffee, if you perform with enthusiasm and passion doors will always open.

This debate is nearly always followed by ‘well, I have no idea what I want to do, I suppose I will do law or medicine but I am not sure what my passion is.’ Again, my answer is always… so do what you enjoy or what feels right for you at the time, very few people know their vocation at 15, in fact many people fail to get it even at 50! Go with your intuition and make sure you are following YOUR dream and not everyone else’s!

In other schools where academic excellence is maybe not the number one usp the questions and doubts are still on show. Aspirations are low or non existent, pupils have no idea what is possible and if staying in education does not appeal the only option seems to be a foray into the world of minimum wage and 50 hour weeks. Is it any wonder we have a disengaged youth?

For as long as I can remember governments have been encouraging schools to build enterprise into the curriculum, particularly for the less academic kids, a misnomer if ever there was one! But I question how successful this has been. I have only been into a handful of schools that get what the word enterprising means. The majority see enterprise as a lesson where pupils come up with a business idea, create a team and try to make some money – this lasts a few weeks or even less then enterprise is ticked off the list and considered DONE. If only it was that simple we would be a super power on the economic stage for sure!

This is not altogether the school’s fault. As a society we do not value or fully embrace the word enterprise so we cannot expect this to be a core lesson for our children.

‘Enterprise’ – A project or undertaking, especially one that requires boldness or effort.
‘Enterprising’ – ready to embark on new ventures full of boldness and initiative

Now, you tell me, do we want our children to be enterprising? Does industry need enterprising people? Do we need the people who educate our children to be enterprising?

We need to rethink our approach here, enterprise is a mindset not a project, it should be at the core of our education system not sat on the periphery as a ‘nice to have for creative kids.’ How will we ever identify and motivate true entrepreneurial talent if we do not embed this way of thinking as early as possible? How will companies survive tougher and tougher recessions if we do not employ enterprising people?

If I ran a school, enterprise would be compulsory for all because it would be present in every lesson and every activity. Quite simply, it would be a core value of the school and not an opt in or out. Breath Jane, breath!

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