Over the past few years the issue of youth unemployment has never been far from the media spotlight. This time last year the figures seemed very bleak indeed, with the number of 16 – 24 year olds out of work at their highest level for 20 years.
Yet, happily, today we seemed to have turned a corner. According to the latest Office of National Statistic figures are falling and 110,000 more young people were in education, employment or training (NEET) in Q4 of last year than the previous year.
So fantastic, wonderful news, well-done Government, job done.
Of course this is not the case. While the results are pleasing there are still nearly a million young people not in work, education or training and there is a growing skills gap. I believe if we want to truly tackle the problem we must look to alternative methods and approaches that harness the passions and talents of our young people – not just after they have left school, but when they are as young as seven.
I recently became an ambassador for an organisation called Ultra Education who work in primary and secondary schools teaching children entrepreneurial skills, giving them the tools they need to flourish. It’s been fascinating to see how entrepreneurial techniques can be used not just to make pupil’s aware of the world of business, but to reinforce traditional subjects such as English, Maths and Science by giving them a real world context.
This is important because today employers don’t just look at grades, they want to see real drive, determination and ambition. Teaching entrepreneurship isn’t about rote learning, it’s about opening eyes to a world of opportunity and showing pupils if they learn skills they can unlock doors and create a real path to success. It’s about adding two critically important Rs to the time worn acronym. These would be Relevance and Realisation.
The new world order is crying out for smaller government and less admin. It screams out for more autonomy and the spirit that builds on that in order to innovate or to create new business enterprises. It demands the young entrepreneur.
To meet this demand we need a system that allows the young to look around and ponder on what is relevant to the problems that we currently face. It is time for education to give children time, opportunity and tools to be able to analyse for themselves where they perceive gaps to exist or where they see or foresee problems that might arise.
The spirit of entrepreneurship is already evident in the way young people interact with technology; and in the way they communicate, create music, art, and interchange experiences. We just need to find a way of harnessing it.
Margaret Casely-Hayford is the Chair of the Advisory Board for UltraEducation, Chair of Action Aid and Non-Executive Director of NHS England. In 2014, Margaret won Black British Business Person of the Year.