Monday, May 10, 2010


Last week, I was honoured to be able to host the Young Enterprise North Wales finals at Venue Cymru in Llandudno.

Young Enterprise is a national programme within schools that aims to inspire young people through enterprise, with students setting up and running their own real company for a year.

The winners of the North Wales competition go on to represent the region in the Welsh finals in Cardiff later this year.

It was a marvellous experience to meet such a group of energised and enterprising young people who had developed new business ideas and, more importantly, had created a profitable business in the space of less than a year.

Of course, many will say that entrepreneurship is something that you are born with and that it cannot be taught to anyone, but enterprise education is more than about just starting a business.

Done properly, enterprise education can provide young people with new career choices and helps to change their mindset towards staring and even working within small businesses.

It teaches them to recognise and implement good ideas and generate new opportunities, as well as assisting them in goal setting and future planning.

Young Enterprise is a successful example of this type of intervention because it helps with personal development, self-esteem and developing enhancing communication, interpersonal relationship, marketing and interviewing skills.

Through becoming involved in their own business and “learning by doing”, entrepreneurship students can understand how to respond to challenges, crises, and adversity in a flexible and opportunistic manner.

More importantly, it works but, believe it or not, gets little support from the Welsh Assembly Government, which may not be a bad thing in itself as it is not constrained by targets and focuses simply on providing the enterprise experience for its young participants

Programmes such as Young Enterprise are critical because academic research demonstrates that young people aged between 18 and 24 are the least likely of any age group to be starting a business. This is despite the fact that they are those most likely to feel that the population views entrepreneurship as a good career choice and that being an entrepreneur gives an individual a high status in society.

The key problem seems to be that of confidence in their own abilities, with a far lower proportion of young people believing they possess the skills to start a new business successfully. That is why programmes such as Young Enterprise are critically important in that they give school pupils the opportunity to learn such skills by starting and managing their own business.

Not surprisingly, academics have found that enterprise education has a positive influence, not only on motivation but on the propensity to start and manage a new business.

Most importantly, enterprise education such as Young Enterprise not only prepares prospective entrepreneurs for the challenges they will face in running a business, it also increases overall awareness of entrepreneurship across the population of school children, thereby widening the pool of future entrepreneurs.

And we need more young people to consider entrepreneurship in the near future.

With the latest statistics showing that there are now 929,000 young people out of work in the UK, we need to explore all avenues to ensure that the vast majority of this group becomes economically active, otherwise we could be left with a lost generation of talent within the country.

Enterprise education, if utilised properly, could be part of that solution, especially as it has become generally accepted that it will be entrepreneurs and new businesses that will be the driving force behind the growth out of recession.

As Mike Moritz, one of the most influential business exports Wales has ever produced, said in my interview with him back in March, if we nurture, develop and attract young talent within this country and surely as day follows night, then that talent will create the industries of the future.

That is the real challenge for those policymakers both in Westminster and Cardiff bay over the next two years.