By Claire West

With the number of NEETs (Not in Employment, Education or Training) already too high, Britain risks failing the next generation of entrepreneurs unless the education system is radically shaken up to help young people to become more enterprising.

This is the claim of new research released today to support the launch of Tenner Tycoon, a major nationwide competition backed by Dragons’ Den entrepreneur Peter Jones which will see £400,000 of ten pound notes loaned to young people who are given a month to try to make as much profit and positive social impact as possible.

The report named Make Money, Make a Difference: Backing Britain’s Future, was commissioned by campaigning charity Enterprise UK in support of Tenner Tycoon. It polled over 1,000 14-19 year olds across the UK during February to gauge attitudes to entrepreneurship amongst secondary school students and identify roadblocks in their path.
It shows that ambitious young people are being let down by their schools and that the UK needs to do more to help realise their potential:

• AMBITION: over half of those surveyed (51%) would like to be their own boss.

• LACK OF SUPPORT: only 1 in 5 believe that their school encourages them to become entrepreneurial.

• KNOWLEDGE GAP: over half (56%) thought that business education should be mandatory at school.

• TEACHING: 1 in 4 said that TV programmes such as Dragons’ Den teach them more about business than their school.

• FEW OPPORTUNITIES: over a third (36%) think it is difficult or impossible to secure an apprenticeship.

The report comes in the wake of the worst figures for youth unemployment in a generation with 965,000 16-24 year olds out of work.

Tom Bewick, CEO of Enterprise UK, which is driving the initiative, said: “We need to face up to the fact that our current educational model is broken and that we need to do a better job of equipping our young people for the workplace or help them start something for themselves.

“With the right approach, colleges and universities in the future could be part of the solution, in preparing our young people for a more enterprising future. This year it is arguably more important than ever given the latest concerning statistics which put youth unemployment at 20.5 per cent, the highest figure since records began in 1992.

“I also think we need to look afresh at how we invest in young talent. What is needed is a new Youth Investment Trust, to replace the Student Loans Company. This would provide young people with state subsidised loans for a variety of purposes other than access to higher education, including start-up capital for new business.”

Additionally, in-depth interviews have been conducted for the report with 17 prominent young entrepreneurs including Jamie Murray Wells from Glasses Direct, Priya Lakhani from Masala Masala, Rajeeb Dey of Enternships and Robert Welch of smallcarBIGCITY.

The young business owners were asked for their perspective on what prompted them to be entrepreneurial, what lessons they’ve learnt along the way and what they wish they had known. Many of those canvassed agreed that they had not been encouraged to be enterprising at school and that they would have liked to have received more enterprise education.

Peter Jones who is supporting Tenner Tycoon, said: “The research presented here concerns me because I firmly believe that our young people have talent and drive and we should be backing them to succeed. This is why I am championing enterprise education to give a new generation of students the know-how and life skills to make a real difference for themselves and others.

“This report comes at a timely juncture and highlights a singular challenge. If we are serious about a culture of enterprise in this country, then we need to nurture them through skills and education, give them confidence through support, and inspire them by celebrating entrepreneurship.”

Tenner Tycoon aims to drive the creation of a new generation of entrepreneurs who will be inspired to take action and play their part in the ‘enterprise-led recovery’ by encouraging them to experience managing a business first hand.

It also encourages schoolchildren to ‘give something back’ and use their profits to help their local community or donate them to charity.