The value of enterprise education

Will Tom Ravenscroft's 'bespoke' education provider boost British business?

Enterprise education is widely recognised as the best way to pull our nation out of the financial abyss. Politicians and business folk alike have argued over what the most effective means to ensure recovery are, but there remains an overarching dogma that entrepreneurship is the best plan of action. Speaking at the T-Mobile Business Sense Roundtable in August, the 2008 winner of The Apprentice, Tim Campbell, spoke of the need to teach children in schools how to set up businesses. He said: “The beauty of youth is that you have got no fear or responsibilities, and we need more young people coming up with business ideas.”

Enabling Enterprise aims to do just that. Established in 2008 by teachers Tom Ravenscroft and Amy Tillotson, this community-interest company (CIC) strives to ensure young people leave school with enterprise skills, aspirations and experience. It offers schools year-long courses in core subjects, where it teaches teamwork skills to the students, organises workshops, offers teacher training sessions and provides useful teaching resources. It also arranges a number of trips for students to visit participating businesses, UBS bank and Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer law firm to name a few. What’s more, the students get an additional GCSE in enterprise skills by taking the course (95% who took the course last year passed the GCSE, which far exceeds the national average of GCSE passes in other courses). However, even more significant is that the programme encourages the students to set up their own small business over the course of the year, thus helping to spur the next generation of entrepreneurs.

The Young Foundation certainly believes in the product. It awarded Tom and Amy a £10,000 grant, out of 150 applications, after it saw huge potential in their business model. Financial backing, and heaps of mentoring and business advice, proved invaluable for the company’s launch.

With 30 schools and 2,500 students currently participating, Enabling Enterprise prides itself on offering a bespoke service to each school. Tom explains: “It’s important to realise every school is different, so we tailor the courses and packages to each individual schools’ needs.” The goal is to have 40,000 students enrolled in five years’ time, which shouldn’t be too hard, bearing in mind they’re already well ahead of their plans.

A mere £1,200 for a year’s subscription for each subject per school, Tom explains that they charge less for a year-long course, than most providers do for a day. The question is whether schools have the funds to allocate to such a scheme, especially with the government’s spending review looming. Proving they have a niche product that’s excellent value for money has never been so important.

Time will tell how many schools sign up. There are a number of other enterprise schemes around today for young students – Peter Jones’ National Enterprise Academy springs immediately to mind – but is all this competition a problem? It shouldn’t be, when you consider the thousands of children who could benefit enormously from some form of business education. With recent figures showing business confidence falling, there has never been a better time to inject enterprise knowledge into the minds of today’s youth. They are the business leaders of tomorrow, and so improving their education holds the key to the future of British enterprise.

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