The Educational Future
At the heart of Young Entrepreneurship Scotland CEO Geoff Leask’s goal to inspire students from all backgrounds to thrive is the fostering of an entrepreneurial mentality from an early age. Dominic Ryan by
The future of education has come into even sharper focus now that Covid-19 has had such an influence on Scottish culture and companies. This makes Young Enterprise Scotland’s (YES) work invaluable, reaching more than 15,000 young people every year.
Funded by more than 600 business community volunteers, they ensure that young people from all backgrounds have the potential to succeed.
This work is about inspiring an entrepreneurial mentality for CEO Geoff Leask – cultivating entrepreneurial skills in young people, and the faster the better.
“The question is always whether an entrepreneur is born or raised,” he says, “The answer is that you can 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 the optimistic outcome of the Covid 19 case is an acceleration toward blended learning.
To bring what we do to a broader audience, digital skills building has always been an important part of our approach, along with face-to-face mentoring and support. Covid-19 has helped us to speed that up through very good initiatives that we have been able to create.
For example, for the Enterprising Schools initiative, which is about teacher training, we are getting very strong support from the Scottish government. Encouraging teachers to have a greater understanding of entrepreneurial learning helps to incorporate the activities and build them into the curriculum. The initiative acts as a framework and encourages organisations such as ours and others to work in the field
Leask adds that it is important for entrepreneurial education – whether in primary, secondary or higher education – to have a wide base of role models. “It doesn’t have to be someone who is a billionaire,” he says. School kids and young people need to realise 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 the entrepreneurial mentality so that they are a much stronger individual in the team as they join the workforce. It’s all about the creation of skills.
He recognises that for some of the core programmes, 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 relatively small country, we are well connected and highly respected for the tremendous work we have done in the corporate arena. There are plenty of support systems for private, public and particularly third sector organisations. So Scotland is a good place to work in that regard.
Where problems still remain is to ensure that in schools there is parity between business and academic work. That’s where our flagship programme for company comes in. Students form teams for a year to operate a real company with real goods and services, then split it up.
“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’s equivalent to, say, a history qualification.”
The way we live and work has been affected 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 a short answer