By Stephen Twigg MP and Lucy Rigby
When we speak to parents about education, they are concerned about their child’s future. One of the most common concerns we hear is about the school to work transition. Parents want to know that the education their child receives is getting them ready to enter the world of work and giving them the best opportunity of securing a job – that also means preparing them to work for themselves.
Labour is focusing on the importance of getting young people ready for work. Schools play a crucial role in this and one important aspect of this agenda is enterprise education. We need to teach young people the skills and knowledge that they need to compete in the labour market of the future. We also need to offer them the confidence to go it alone – perhaps with their own business ideas – and the resilience to confront the challenges of being their own boss.
Whilst the Coalition Government have scaled their support for this aspect of education back, there remain some schools and teachers who are leading the way. Last week we visited Lincoln Castle Academy – there, enterprise education is just part of what they do. Young people are shown how they would set up a business and taught about what it could be like to run a company. They are taught financial management and are encouraged to lead business projects. A-Level students have set up a Community Interest Company, generating revenue through advertising by publishing a Business and Community Directory. Pupils achieved ‘Best Business Idea’ award in the BBC’s Dragons’ Den Goes Back to School Project.
These are fantastic achievements that we should celebrate. We need to look at how more schools can deliver these kinds of opportunities. There is a really important role for business in supporting schools in this area and that is why we are working with businesses to promote better links with schools.
Shockingly, in a recent international report published by an organisation called the Global Entrepreneurship and Development Index (GEDI), our country was found to be 14th in the world for enterprise education. This is simply not good enough.
That’s why we want a much stronger focus on vocational and practical education, equipping young people with the skills they will need to make it. The Government has got it wrong by removing the requirement of schools to provide work experience for 14-16 year olds. Businesses know that the most important thing for getting young people ready for work is exposure to the work place.
Apprenticeships offer another important route, as Ed Miliband pointed out yesterday. Labour would see High Speed 2 and other government infrastructure projects as a means to increasing the number and high quality of apprenticeships.
Although schools are feeling the pinch, there are excellent examples of schools and teachers being innovative and finding ways to coach young people to be business minded. It’s important for our young people and for the future economy of this country.
Stephen Twigg is the Shadow Education Secretary. Lucy Rigby is the Labour PPC for Lincoln.