Let’s pass on the baton of enterprise to the next generation

From a very young age, we are told that performing well in school is the key for success in later life.

Let’s pass on the baton of enterprise to the next generation

From a very young age, we are told that performing well in school is the key for success in later life.

The expectations are made clear to us from the age of five: we are encouraged to listen intently in lessons, absorb as much information as humanly possible, and then to regurgitate this in our exams. We are taught to ace our A Levels for a place at the university of our choice, earning that undergraduate degree that will give us the first foot on the career ladder.  

It is a trajectory that millions of young people in the UK have followed, and undoubtedly millions will do so in the future – a trajectory based on a central assumption: that the skills and information we are taught in schools prepares us for working life.

However, the time has come to challenge this assumption – and to reconsider whether the education system as we know it is still fit for purpose.

There is a growing cohort of business leaders, industry bodies and individuals who are calling for change.  This community advocates our education system is outdated – and despite our best intentions, we are failing to prepare our young people for their futures.

There is an abundance of research and data that demonstrates this.  According to a 2019 survey from the CBI, 45% of businesses rank ‘work readiness’ as the most important factor when recruiting young people  – and the same percentage of employers feel that young people leaving education do not fit this criteria.    

This problem is only set to worsen. The global economy is shifting, and technological innovation has changed the job market faster than anyone predicted. By one estimate from the World Economic Forum, 65% of children entering primary schools now will be employed in jobs that don’t even yet exist. 

How can we expect to prepare young people for the jobs of the future, if we are already failing to prepare them for the jobs of today?   It poses the questions: what are we teaching our children – and why? 

An education is the most valuable thing you can give a young person but we have an outdated perception of what this must entail. Our curriculum has been static for decades and the inability for schools to progress from passive learning techniques damages the motivation and curiosity in students.  

Instead, thousands of young people spend their school days bored and distracted – and then are blamed and shamed for lack of concentration or effort. 

This is something that I personally relate with.  Whilst I always was curious and eager to learn new things, I wanted to learn by doing – not by watching – and often found school lessons could not hold my attention for long.

I wanted to channel my energy towards something other than the curriculum, and luckily, found just the way to do this. 

When I was 15, I developed the idea to produce yearbooks for my school – an idea that became a business opportunity. The success spurred me on to expand, and soon I was creating yearbooks for a dozen local schools. This was the start of the journey that led me to found Fizz Group, a business I run to this day.

The enthusiasm I often lacked in lessons, I found in abundance in my enterprise. The motivation and reward I got from successfully managing my small business made me excel in areas that – taught passively in a classroom – I found difficult to connect with. It opened my eyes to the problems in our education system and to how beneficial an enterprise education could be.

Whether this is learning about finances and budgets, or writing a persuasive business proposal and pitching it to a room of people – enterprise education brings lessons alive and equips students with the tools to enter the work force or start their own business.

Crucially, enterprise education can provide young people with options. Not every 18 year old in the UK wants to go to university and many attend purely out of expectations, and lack of information about other options. The idea of starting your own business at this time can be overwhelming if you have not received guidance on how to do so.

In an attempt to ensure a secure future for the next generation, we have succeeded in narrowing down their options and teaching them to be risk adverse. When I decided to focus on my business, my teachers were pessimistic about my chances of success, encouraging me to take the safe path and apply to university instead. Instead, I took a leap of faith in my own abilities and now my business turns over in excess of £3m.

The case for enterprise education is clear, but it is not valued in our education system. In fact, a recent survey by the University of Buckingham found that only a quarter of 18-25 year olds received any kind of enterprise or business education whilst at school.  

This is not good enough. We are failing to provide the tools and information to empower young people to make informed choice in their careers.  

We need to take heed and start to appreciate the value of enterprise education in our academic institutions.

Changing this mindset is not easy and cannot be done overnight – but there are actions we can take today to help rectify the problem. Teachers can only do so much in this area – we need business leaders with the expertise and experience to contribute to the solution.

It is a responsibility we need to take seriously.  Passing on the baton of enterprise is something we should all aspire to do. This is why I have become involved with the University of Buckingham, and will be match-funding their business enterprise undergraduate course.  At the moment, quality enterprise education is not accessible to all – and if everyone played a small part holding open the door for the next generation, we would be setting up young people for life. 

There has never been a more apt time to make this change. Just this week, the UK entered a new chapter in its political and economic history. Our exit from the EU poses both a challenge and an opportunity – and the UK business landscape will only continue to thrive if we start to take this issue seriously. As Britain strikes out alone in the world, we must consider how we encourage young people to innovate, and branch out with fresh and exciting business ideas. 

There is no better way to secure a successful new chapter for the UK than to guarantee the next generation are ready for the future.  They will be the business leaders, civil servants and entrepreneurs that will be taking on the baton for UK business – and it is our role to lay the groundwork for their success.


Adam Mcgill
Adam Mcgill

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