The working world may appear a hostile place to many young people. As the job market contracts and toughens, employers have expressed concerns over the prospects of younger applicants, many of whom lack essential skills and experience of the work place. In a recent article, Jane Phelps encouraged young job seekers to embrace a dynamic ‘enterprising’ outlook, since drive, creativity and innovation will help them to generate new opportunities and tackle future challenges. Acting on this advice may prove difficult unless students are provided with guidance on how to be enterprising from a younger age. As the gap between education and work widens, educators have a responsibility to prepare students for the ‘real’ world and the turbulence of recession. Developing an ‘enterprising’ outlook within the education system may prove vital in securing employment for future generations. Can classrooms of today shape the workforce of tomorrow?

The future of enterprise education?
The Department for Education has recently outlined new proposals for the future of enterprise education in English schools. By widening participation in private enterprise schemes, supporting schools to develop their own business, and creating a nationwide hub of enterprise societies in colleges and universities, the Government hopes to develop a new generation of young entrepreneurs, who will sow the seeds of economic regeneration. If effectively implemented, these proposals will enhance enterprise skills and business acumen amongst participating students, which will certainly be welcomed by future employers.

There are, however, limits to this particular vision of enterprise education. The DfE proposals focus on the commercial domain of enterprise – an unsurprising fact, given the economic incentives present. Although a ‘business’ approach may benefit some students in some contexts, a narrow definition of enterprise may limit the scope of student interest and participation, as well as isolate the fruits of enterprise from other subject areas. In order to broaden and deepen the impact of enterprise education, we must consider what enterprise can offer education as a whole.

Towards an enterprising education?
At Enabling Enterprise, we regard enterprise as a source of educational enrichment, whose results far exceed the generation of profits. Rather than regarding enterprise as a distinct topic, we adopt a holistic approach to enterprise education, which harnesses the active ingredients of enterprise and enfolds them within the structures of learning. By developing accessible and creative teaching resources, Enabling Enterprise seeks to create enterprising learning environments, which reinvigorate traditional methods and compliment all ages, subjects and curricula.

Imagine a scenario where students learn through a direct and active participation in a subject area. A maths lesson need not be a dull textbook exercise, but can be transformed into a mission to build your own sports stadium, using numeracy skills to calculate budgets, statistics to conduct market research, and angle measurement to draw architectural designs. When injected with an enterprising approach, these skills become more engaging, relevant and memorable to the students applying them.

Enterprising education not only brings fresh energy into the classroom, but also develops the skills, experiences, and aspirations for success, which will prepare students for the challenges of adult life. When immersing themselves in project based tasks, students have the opportunity to develop essential skills, as they actively learn responsibility, leadership, collaboration, communication and creativity. When given the freedom to express ideas, use their initiative and take ownership, students also gain rewarding and memorable experiences, which play a formative role in the growth of their motivation, confidence and resilience.

Enabling Enterprise aims to relate these skills and experiences to the context of employment by building connections between schools and businesses. When visiting companies and chatting with corporate volunteers, students can see how learning is applied in the world of work. The ‘real world’ is brought into the classroom and guides students as they develop their own aspirations.

Within the field of education, enterprise has the capacity to equip all students with the tools for future success, as well as build a brighter future for UK business. If we are to realise the wider impact of enterprise education, an enterprising outlook must be made accessible to students with a range of talents and interest – not only aspiring entrepreneurs. Perhaps the time has arrived for schools to step beyond the economics of enterprise into the much richer world of enterprising learning.

Tom Ravenscroft & Beth Price, Enabling Enterprise

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