Starting Something

Starting Something

99 red balloons by james_michael_hill.

Conversations about enterprise education can be tricky.  Stick with me, I’m warming up.  You see, you start off talking about encouraging people to start a business, and before you know it, you’re helping them to have ideas and make those ideas happen.  Minutes later, you are wondering whether the ‘thing’ they start has to be a business, or whether it could be anything.  Almost exactly seven minutes in, and someone will remind you that employees need to be entrepreneurial too, or at the very least, enterprising.  What started as a simple concept is now enormous, with most of the room saying that everyone needs to be enterprising, or entrepreneurial these days, regardless of whether they ever start anything.  After a good if exhausting run around the houses, it’s sometimes tough to know what progress has been made.

Enterprise UK, who I rate highly and have partnered with on several schemes including Make Your Mark with a Tenner are putting together an Enterprise Manifesto.  In fact, they would like everyone to help them, and their collaborative approach is entirely in keeping with the spirit of the age which, quite rightly, accepts that the best ideas and solutions are likely to come from outside an organisation.  They are after your ideas, and are letting people comment upon and rate the ideas which come in, with partners including Director Magazine.  

We had a good session today, chaired by the brilliant Steve Moore.  It struck me that;

Too much talk of starting businesses might be a red herring.  Why can’t we inspire school children to see that we are ALL  starting something?  A life.  A career.  A home.  Perhaps one day a family.  An adventure!  For this adventure, we’ll need to be able to count, to write, to set goals, present ideas and to succeed.  It will be tough and require persistence.  We will need to be able to work in a team, to be resilient, imaginative and kind.  Seen like this,  lessons in starting something are not for the tycoons of tomorrow.  They are for everyone.   

Your leg bone’s connected your thigh bone.  And your GCSEs are connected to your A-Levels.  A-Levels, for many, are connected to University.  University (are you still with me?) is supposed to finish with getting a degree (sadly it didn’t for me).  As far as I can make out, this ongoing chain-reaction is supposed to culminate with the lucky holder of a degree certificate securing that thing which their former self has been headed for;  a job.  It therefore seems to me that the offerers of ‘said jobs’ are in a highly influential position when it comes to the preparation habits of not only the University students, but also the A-Levellers and GSCE crew too.  In short;  Britain’s Bosses Hold Key to Start-Up Britain.  Here’s why;  I think that they can start a chain- reaction back down the system.  If the graduate employers of Britain begin to ask what a young person has been involved with STARTING in their life, we will start to see a ripple effect.  At first it will be gradual, then little by little, schemes, projects and companies will begin to form.  Some will be set up explicitly to please the graduate recruiter further down the chain.  That’s OK!  By adding one simple section to their forms, big businesses will be inspiring a generation of starter-uppers.  In the process, they will be fostering all of the essential qualities which they keep complaining that graduates are lacking.  What’s not to like?

School has to do many things.  It’s somewhere for children and young people to go during the day, whilst their parents are at work.  It has to prepare us for life.  Small one that.  It needs to deliver new recruits to the job market, and include amongst that the people who can solve the world’s problems.  Finally, it must pass on the knowledge and skills which one generation thinks that the next should possess.  To put it mildly, that’s a tough job for anyone or anything. If want to do all of the above more successfully, we’re going to have to start measuring a heck of a lot more than quiz answers.  You will have to measure what many call the ‘immeasurable’.  Teamwork,  communication skills, creativity.  Brace yourself reader, this is going to be one of the most feisty and enjoyable topics around over the coming years! 

It’s becoming clear that the successful politicians of the next few years will not be made famous by how much they spend, but by how good they are at connecting (or rewiring) things that already exist and how able they are to encourage other people to do things which are in their shared interests.  I find it a bit depressing how little this happens at the moment.  Half of the politicians’ role should be to spot, connect and promote ‘what works’.  That doesn’t need to cost the earth.

Finally, what hits me is the lack of serious ambition in this area, from our political friends. Too much tinkering around the edges. It’s easy to see why.  Which MP in their right mind would, in Government, spin around and claim that the whole school system needed redesigning?  And which poor shadow minister would waltz around making the kind of outrageous and bold claims which could never be implemented inside a few years?  Maybe this is the secret motive behind encouraging parents to start their own schools?  The hope that, given a blank sheet of paper, some will create a fresher, bolder, 21st century set-up which prepares people for the world and leaves them unbelievably excited about their role in it.  Politicians leave this kind of ranting to you and me.  We’d better not let them down… 

Here’s what Steve and the team today made me realise; 

I want to have a conversation about ‘enterprise education’ which has every single department, company, organisation and individual in the country interested.  Because it’s too broad a subject to be left to business, and too important to be left in the classroom.

3 Replies to “Starting Something”

  1. Great blog oli, cheers. I think that the conversation around the purpose of education is always fascinating. I liked your idea too that employers could drive a more enterprising Britain with a focus on embedding proof of entrepreneurial endeavour within concepts of employability.

    Thanks a lot for your insights and contribution

  2. Great blog oli, cheers. I think that the conversation around the purpose of education is always fascinating. I liked your idea too that employers could drive a more enterprising Britain with a focus on embedding proof of entrepreneurial endeavour within concepts of employability.

    Thanks a lot for your insights and contribution to the enterprise manifesto – I hope the project continues to throw up good ideas

  3. I totally agree with the sentiments here and thankyou for voicing them. We have spent five years blurring the edges between enterprise, employability and entrepreneurship while bridging the gap between education and the workplace. We have introduced 1500 employers to 8000 young people during business events and they never fail to be amazed at how creative teamplayers with a thirst to learn that they are. While the educatators are amazed at the change in student motivation following a day or three of contexual learning delivered by business people. The education system is not broken it just needs some tweaking and you are right Oli to say by making the connections between employers and our young people in a facilitated business setting is the best way to keep us competive in the C21.

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