Getting young people ready to go it alone

1st February, 2013 2:46 pm

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.

  • AlanGiles

    “. 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”

    One of the problems many parents will have will be rebellious young men and women – because that is what today’s 17 year olds are – furious that they are being made to stay on at school till they are 18. I really do foresee great problems coming with this.

    It is fine for academically gifted lads and girls – who would probably have stayed on into 6th form and beyond anyway, but for the teenager who isn’t, they will bitterly resent being school students into adulthood.

    On the whole we don’t change that much through the years. I wasn’t academic, and I left school at 15 and couldn’t wait to do so. had I been forced to stay till I was 18 – well, I think my main occupation would have been truancy. Lots of lads dislike school and can;’t wait to get out – and in my experience they learn a lot more outside school than they do in it.

  • IAS2011

    With a PM in denial about the failings of the Work Programme, people in general should be deeply concerned about their future.

    After leaving school or University, transitional ‘Mentor’ support is key to the development and pursuit of aspirations by young people. However, disillusionment is growing amid the Work Programme failure and the challenge to encourage a campaign that gets business directors out of hiding behind their HR departments, and giving young people an opportunity to promote their vast values and skills before these business owners.

    Politicians need to become innovative in their approach and in the policies they adapt in order to deal with these serious issues that are stagnating the upwards social mobility of young people.

    The fear is that amid the economic depression grows a overwhelming psychological depression. Society cannot allow the already poor stench of job centre offices, who already fail to engage with the aspirations of job seekers, to get out of control. If a long-term reliance on the State is not an option that politicians want to encourage, then I propose that the political opposition needs to start strengthening their arguments, and regaining confidence and trust from communities by engaging with these real ‘ordinary people’ whose aspirations have become clouded, and inspire both change and progress in their lives through mentoring.

    I will sign-up to support this when you are ready!

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