Lisa, who has been volunteering at Enabling Enterprise since November, offers her insights into how the enterprise skills we develop at school are crucial in the world of work, coming from the private sector.


Following seven years of working in the City, I elected to take a career break as I wanted to take time out, do something entirely different and reflect upon my career direction. Having volunteered in South America and then managed a team of volunteers at London 2012, I was keen to give something back in my own community. I had also begun hearing a lot about an emerging movement, known as social enterprise and was keen to understand this phenomenon better. When I saw a voluntary position advertised at Enabling Enterprise, it ticked both of those boxes and more: being focused on enterprise education, a long-held interest of mine, and a start-up.

Essential Skills for Success

As a wannabe career shifter, I have whiled away many hours poring over job descriptions of late. Unsurprisingly while many employers require a degree and good academic background, it seems that certain skills are equally as important in identifying the right candidate for the job.

What we’re looking for in you:
• Excellent communication skills
• Ability to work in a team and independently
• Creativity
• Resilience
• Strong analytical and problem-solving skills

Casting my memory back, when I was applying for graduate schemes at university, it was a similar situation. The attainment of a degree represented the requisite standard of intelligence but companies were seeking graduates whose prowess went beyond good exam results. Extra-curricular activities, part-time jobs and exchange programmes differentiated candidates, and why? Because employers get a better return on investment from hiring well-rounded, skilled individuals who can communicate, solve problems and work as a team.


Seen it all before

In the fifteen years since I applied for my first full-time job as a school leaver, the world has witnessed dramatic changes, many of which have revolutionised the way that we do business: the internet, the smart phone, the global recession to name but a few. But while everything changes, some things remains the same. Employers, both public and private sector, continue to demand the same qualities and skills of potential jobseekers. So what does the jobseeker infer from this? Firstly, that despite far-reaching technological advancement, certain fundamental skills remain essential to be successful in the workplace. Secondly, by virtue of their frequent inclusion in job descriptions, candidates clearly do not always possess these skills.

I am confident that anyone who has ever been employed could offer numerous anecdotes attesting to this phenomenon but perhaps more compelling proof of this skills gap is the claim from employers themselves.


So how to address this skills shortfall? Step up, Enabling Enterprise

Enabling Enterprise is a social enterprise set up in 2009 by a group of teachers whose mission is to equip young people with the skills, aspirations and experiences that they need to succeed in life. They focus specifically on the following key enterprise skills:
• Communication
• Presentation
• Problem solving
• Teamwork
• Leadership
• Organisation

This list doesn’t just remind me of a job description but of my performance appraisals. Working in the City, my career would have ended before it began, if I couldn’t demonstrate my ability to use these skills!

Naturally I’m biased but these core enterprise skills are highly relevant in the workplace, particularly in the private sector. The ability to communicate effectively is critical, no matter what the role, as business is all about relationships and good communication underpins relationships whether they are with colleagues, management teams, investors, bankers, lawyers or shareholders. Teamwork is a key constituent of the corporate mindset as it is widely recognised that great results are achieved from working together, plus the practical fact that anyone can fall victim to the norovirus. Closer to home, in my role as an analyst, my days were largely spent working through problems related to a company’s performance in order to inform a fund manager decision. When appraising new investments, presenting to investment committees was an integral component of the process, making presentation skills fundamental. Last but by no means least, having good organisation skills is extremely important as conflicting priorities, last minute changes and demanding time conditions are a feature of nearly every job I’ve had!

Enabling Enterprise draws out these skills through a wide range of inventive teaching resources, challenge days and experiences provided for both primary and secondary school students. Akin to a further education or working environment, learning outside the classroom is a key theme and school trips are an important feature of an EE programme. While this may evoke memories of wading through cold, muddy rivers looking for frog spawn or a dreary tour around the Industrial Revolution section of the British Museum, EE school trips are interactive, useful and focused on enterprise education.

Yes, you’ve guessed it: as the ultimate beneficiary of EE’s efforts, the private sector is a bona fide subscriber to EE’s philosophy! A number of blue-chip corporates and start-ups partner with EE many of whom host these important trips. Visits to corporate offices enable students to meet professionals, provide an insight into the working world, introduce a contrasting environment to the classroom and add a real-life context to the enterprise education they are receiving at school.

On-the-job Experience

Having volunteered at many of EE’s educational trips, I have been hugely impressed by the enthusiasm, professionalism and commitment shown by EE teachers and business supporters. However, it is the reaction from the students that is truly inspirational. Over the course of a four-hour session, I have seen seven year-olds turn into extraordinary negotiators, year 6 present with more finesse than many CFOs and students from all different backgrounds form, norm, storm and perform in teams of people they have never met before. These students travel back to school with improved enterprise skills, a taste of commerce and an experience which they can reference when applying for jobs.

Reflecting upon my time here, whether it be supporting students at a trip, helping to create learning materials or writing up news articles, producing consistently excellent resources which are anchored in enterprise skills, and delivering those resources to schools effectively, is at the heart of everything that EE does. This start-up organisation is working exceptionally hard to address the skills gap and improve young people’s chances of success in life in a meaningful way. If school leavers, graduates and experienced hires are to meet the increasingly high standards set by employers, particularly in the challenging economic conditions, it is vital that these core enterprise skills are ingrained from a young age. My top tip to employers seeking employees: invest and support initiatives like Enabling Enterprise.

Anyway, enough down time – it’s back to the jobs pages for me.

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