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Small business leaders applaud call for enterprise education on curriculum

Young Enterprise CEO's demand gets support from Federation of Small Businesses

fsb largeSmall business leaders gave Michael Mercieca a huge round of applause when he called for enterprise education to be returned to the National Curriculum.

Asked if he could be granted one wish that might help young people get a better deal from the school system the CEO of Young Enterprise said:

“I’d like to get enterprise education back on the curriculum back where it belongs so we can get young people to become better employees and better entrepreneurs.”

His words came at a major Federation of Small Businesses Policy Conference in London – and his rousing reception was particularly pointed as Mr Mercieca was sharing the platform with Skills and Enterprise Minister Matthew Hancock.

Last September Education Secretary Michael Gove abolished the statutory duty on schools to provide work related education for 14-16 year olds.

Answering a question from the floor about this Mr Mercieca warned that Government education policy was not helping: “Young Enterprise is being squeezed out of schools because it’s not part of the key performance indicators they’re being measured on.”

He added: “We have to recognise there is a chasm between the education system and employment. Some 72% of employers are saying people are coming out of the education system for entry level jobs not prepared for work.”

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Michael Mercieca

 He said: “There is a huge over application for jobs, and our students are coming out unprepared for those jobs.  Think of each individual tragic loss of earnings, morale and motivation. Research has shown it can lead to suicide. We have to badge this gap – and we can do so through mentoring.

“Being ready for work means having those employability skills which are life skills. Being positive, able to solve problems, communicate, being able to succeed. These are not subjects you can be taught at school. You don’t learn how to swim through a book; you’ve got to jump in the pool.”

The Young Enterprise CEO said the charity began its work very early with students as young as four.

He said: “It’s a progression – so you don’t go in heavy at year one but you can teach them about how family finances work, how the community work. It’s learning my doing. It’s a good break from rote teaching but it gets the mind working. Young People are very, very creative, if you unleash that creative you get great results but we’re not doing enough of it.”

Mr Mercieca said the essence of what Young Enterprise does was to give young people an early taste of the real word: “We try to show them the stumbling blocks and take them through them – let them stumble. The key is it’s though a mentor. We link up with local businesses.”

If a school could not afford the fee to take part in the programme Young Enterprise goes to local businesses and asks them to contribute. “This is why we’re excited and pleased about our three year partnership with the FSB,” he said.

He said that Young Enterprise’s ability to put business mentors into the classroom was crucial. “By running the programme and showing people that business can be exciting, teachers find the students re-engage with their academic studies, especially those who aren’t getting the academic side. Let’s face it a lot don’t.”

He said students learned to juggle their priorities with Young Enterprise:  “I’ve had students at competitions who’ve got to get back for an exam the next day. That’s life and it’s a balancing act.”

He said that the growth of IT and social media was becoming a hugely important part of what Young Enterprise does. “It is much easier to start a business own from your back room now. Our students can start theirs on line, rather than freezing outside at a trade fair.”

Mr Mercieca said he was worried about the number of schemes that were offering money and loans to young entrepreneurs who had not received any training such as that provided by Young Enterprise. The danger was that there would be a high failure rate.