In Scottish schools, building skills for life

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The prospect of schooling

It’s never too early to learn entrepreneurial skills, and, writes Geoff Leask of Young Entrepreneurship Scotland, those who start at school will be more resilient in the workplace.

It’s always tempting in times of confusion to sink back into the familiar. This pull towards traditional subjects and conventional teaching practices in education is very intense, and they will still have their place in fact.

However, I am inspired by the number of studies published in recent weeks that have not only acknowledged the potential to use the pandemic as a starting point for fresh and progressive thinking about what and how we teach our children in school, but have made a strong case for funding this new approach.

Above all, one thing cries louder to me in this crisis than anything else: the need to engage young people in their educational journey towards entrepreneurial education.

If we are to cultivate people capable of becoming innovators, job creators and intrapreneurs who will render companies more relevant, flexible and resilient in the future, learning the entrepreneurial instruments of trade is necessary.

This is recognised in the Scottish Government’s response to the Economic Recovery Advisory Committee, which must start early with documents promoting Scotland’s entrepreneurial ambitions. The Government funds Young Enterprise Scotland to work in schools and colleges with Scotland’s young people to grow their ambition and skills to establish the companies of the future, but now the issue is how we build and enhance the program at a time when teachers face unprecedented pressures.

Maybe the first response is to show that it works and that entrepreneurship can be taught, like any other ability.

Geoff Leask, Young Business Scotland Chief Executive

The Entrepreneurs Network released its paper, Educating Potential Creators, earlier this month. It notes that there are substantial benefits from a long-term, organized solution offered across the board.

It uses a study of nearly 10,000 Swedish young people who have been participating in an entrepreneurial learning program over the past 16 years as evidence. It concludes that these students were more likely to start a company, with participants more than a decade later receiving an average of 10.2 percent more from entrepreneurship than those who had not participated.

There is already evidence that involvement in university entrepreneurial education programs contributes to higher earnings, increases the probability of starting a company, and facilitates the transfer of technology from universities to the private sector.

But there is also clear evidence that in high schools, entrepreneurship initiatives can improve financial literacy, market knowledge, and a resilient mentality that is necessary for everyone entering the workforce.

Also earlier intervention will help develop non-cognitive skills such as teamwork, self-esteem and effective communication – entrepreneurial education in elementary schools.

A third of young people aged 18-24 worldwide plan to start a company in the next three years, with another 14 percent already operating a business, the Entrepreneurs Network study found. In the UK, where the number of young individuals who work for themselves has doubled since 2001, it makes a lot of sense to give them the skills they need early on.

Through the SCQF certification – the equivalent of a Higher – for the Young Entrepreneur Scotland Company Program, which sets students the challenge of starting and running their own companies, Scotland is already leading the way in the UK. An evidence-based study of the long-term importance of this training is what the Educating Future Founders report offers us.

So let’s not wait for the storms of confusion to subside until the findings of the several studies published over the past six months start to be put into effect. As a country, let’s lead the way and put into action more of the positive things we know will work with certainty.

Employers appreciate entrepreneurial skills, and it has been shown that entrepreneurship education initiatives targeting high school students reduce the risk of a young person.

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