The future of education is now much sharper, with Covid-19 having had such an influence on Scottish culture and businesses. This makes the work of Young Enterprise Scotland (YES) invaluable, which annually employs more than 15,000 young people.
It ensures that young people from all backgrounds have the chance to succeed, sponsored by more than 600 company volunteers.
This work is about inspiring an entrepreneurial mentality for CEO Geoff Leask – cultivating entrepreneurial skills in young people and the faster the better.
“There’s always the question of whether you’re born or bred to be an entrepreneur,” he says. “The response is, you will become an entrepreneur. During your school years, you can learn the skills you need.
“The more we do that, the better it will be for ‘Scotland plc.’ That’s our belief, and it’s integral to our Enterprise for All strategic plan.”
“The history just doesn’t matter. That’s the important thing about entrepreneurial education, since it can inspire anyone from academic stars to those who are not suitable for conventional schooling.
Leask continues that this means a heavy focus on fair access and opportunities for young people, no matter where they are, and points out that with an acceleration towards blended learning, there is a positive side of the Covid 19 case.
Together with mentoring and support, digital skills building has always been an essential element of our strategy to bring what we do to a wider audience,” he says. “Covid-19 has helped us to accelerate that through good programs that we have been able to create.
For example, for the Enterprising Schools initiative, which is about teacher professional development, we are getting very strong support from the Scottish government.
It helps to incorporate the activities and make them part of the curriculum by encouraging teachers to have a greater understanding of entrepreneurial learning. The program encourages organizations such as ours and others to provide tools, passion and practical knowledge.
Leask adds that it is important for entrepreneurial education to have a wide base of role models – whether at primary, secondary, or higher education levels. “It doesn’t have to be someone who is a billionaire,” he says. School kids and young people need to realize what it is like to be interested in the world of entrepreneurship and what it is like.
Our aim is not to make anyone start a company when they leave school. Whether in the private, public or third sector, it is to offer everybody the skills, experience and understanding that will make them an important part of a team.
“We give them that entrepreneurial mindset so that when they enter the workforce, they’re a much better person in the team. It’s all about skill development.”
He recognizes that for some of the core programs, it is not always possible to have the teacher present, and that there is still a lot of work to do to get schools to understand that. There are, however, several positives as well.
Although we are a fairly small country, for the tremendous work we have done in the corporate arena, we are well connected and highly regarded,”Although we are a fairly small nation, we are well connected and highly regarded for the tremendous work we have done in the corporate arena,” For organizations in the private, public and particularly the third sector, there are plenty of support structures. So Scotland is a positive place to work in that regard.
Ensuring parity of respect between business and academic work in schools is where there are still challenges. That’s where our flagship program for company comes in. To run a real company with real goods, students shape teams.
“Last year, for the first time, Enterprise Program graduates achieved a level six SCQF qualification – the equivalent of a higher degree. Our mantra is ‘learning by doing’, and that gives us the same appreciation as, say, a qualification in history.”
The way we live and work has been influenced by Covid-19. So does Leask claim that the principle of entrepreneurship is even more important to shaping the future of Scotland?
The short answer is yes. The longer answer is that corporations and organisations will have winners and losers. If you look closely at some of the companies that perform well, those are the organizations that are run by people with ample entrepreneurial abilities and an entrepreneurial mentality.