Future Possible

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Aug2014 20

Simon Hill is Head of Partnerships at Enabling Enterprise. Here, he explores the latest report by the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), entitled ‘Future Possible’, and discusses how it relates to Enabling Enterprises approach.

The CBI’s Future possible: the business vision for giving young people the chance they deserve is timed to come out just before thousands of students get their exam results this year – as I write, in fact. Results that for many will determine the next steps they take on the road to further education, training and employment.

The paper points out that the future faced by today’s young people is more uncertain than for their predecessors. Technology, no more jobs for life, and continued economic uncertainty the key trends cited. The cyclical nature of unemployment, and youth unemployment, are well known. As is the fact that for those in work, young people are twice as likely to be made redundant than 25-49 year olds.

The CBI’s call is clear: Government, business and parents need to step up and help young people overcome these challenges. The proposed solutions? A structured programme of preparation for work; clear academic and vocational routes, which are equally valued; businesses “stepping up” and delivering the support young people need, the government helping to offer more opportunities too; and a coherent network to support employability.

Rigorous, Rounded and Grounded

The CBI urges that with less than a year to the next General Election, parties don’t forget the 767,000 unemployed young people as they prepare their manifestos. Turnout in recent General Elections of less than 50% of 18-24 year olds suggests that if the politicians remember them, they might not have this demographic at the top of their groups to target with enticing pledges.

For some time now the CBI has been calling for our education system to do more to deliver “rigorous, rounded and grounded people.” The importance of “good grades” is clear, but so increasingly are other factors. Recent CBI and UKCES skills surveys point to the increasing demand from employers of a wider skill set, or should I say skills, experiences and aspirations set?

The CBI report gives plenty of examples of good ways to develop young people’s wider experiences. From City Airport, who twice a year opens its doors to local 16-18 year olds to Asda’s adoption of local schools which combines work experience and engagement of not just young people but also parents, careers advisors and so forth. The CBI are calling for a number of things including vocational equivalents to A levels and a national network of advisors to fill the gap in information and knowledge about different careers and different pathways.

Starting Young

Two things occur to me about this in relation to Enabling Enterprise and our approach. Firstly, there still isn’t much emphasis from what I’ve read on starting young; we see the need to enable this awareness from primary age. As a primary head said to a colleague of mine recently, her students are at the age when they don’t know there is a box to think outside of. Getting the right level of awareness and interest at the right age is key to future success, and in making choices that will determine future success.

Enabling Enterprise’s Education Associates support primary and secondary schools to deliver Enterprise Education including trips to a range of inspirational businesses of nearly every shape and size. The analysis of our skills assessment data collected over at the start of the 2013-14 academic year, and again at the end to track progress against eight enterprise and employability skills, suggests that primary students can make real progress in areas like teamwork and leading, problem-solving and creativity from an early age. So start early, and make the most of the time spent in the classroom to lay the foundations.

One Size Doesn’t Fit All

The second point is that not all of today’s students, in fact not many at all, will go on to work for a big brand or an employer with the scale of some mentioned in the Future Possible report. Raising aspirations to follow non-academic routes to work, or to start a business, or to work in smaller organisations too are also crucial. Many of Enabling Enterprise’s business partners are SMEs. We also work with organisations who host visits from schools but are supported by external volunteers from start-ups, sole traders, and the smallest SMEs who can inspire and share their experiences too. Some of our business partners are also keen to host school visits that offer their smaller clients volunteering opportunities to support the progress the students make.

What is admirable in the CBI’s persistence in the case for a national and joined up approach is that it takes a broad view; that everyone should have the same opportunities at school age to develop their full potential and have the right knowledge at the right time to make informed decisions. Some clearly have greater challenges than others and will need a greater, more intensive level of support than others. Giving young people the chance to develop the skills and the confidence at an early age seems to me to be a crucial factor in setting them on the right track to future success and wellbeing.

At a time when there are more university places than ever before, but when that increased supply doesn’t seem to be driving down the price; and when teachers still recommend university more than any other post-school route, there needs to be more emphasis on the other paths our young people can take on their journeys to the world of work.

Enabling Enterprise work to ensure that one day all students leave school equipped with the enterprise skills, experiences of work and aspiration for future success. If you would like to find out how you can support Enabling Enterprise, or how you can get involved, Contact Us.

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