By Daniel Hunter

Enterprise and business skills need to be encouraged from a younger age, according to experts at the Student Entrepreneurs Question Time (SEQT) event at the Liberal Democrats Party Conference in Glasgow.

Panellists from the world of business and politics told the audience of students that entrepreneurship should be promoted as a career path at schools. They explained that whilst tenacity, determination and bravery are needed to succeed in business, hard skills such as managing intellectual property, exporting, contracts and sourcing funding should be learnt at an early age.

The event, hosted by the National Association of College & University Entrepreneurs (NACUE) and Santander, was set up to bridge the gap between youth and government and allow budding entrepreneurs to discuss the issues that are important to them.

Around 80,000 university students across the UK currently run businesses, according to research from Santander. A quarter of these plan to turn their business into a career when they graduate, highlighting the importance of young entrepreneurs to the UK economy.

But students at the SEQT event claimed they needed more practical support from the government and universities such as mentoring schemes. Other ideas discussed included teaching finance and contract law as part of the GCSE curriculum and introducing assessment of entrepreneurial work undertaken during university degree courses.

Stephen Dury, Managing Director of SME Markets & Business Development in Santander Corporate and Commercial Banking, said: “It’s so important to support and encourage entrepreneurism especially amongst young people. Student entrepreneurs are key to the growth and prosperity of our economy and many of them will define and lead our future.”

Johnny Luk, NACUE Chief Executive added: "More students are setting up businesses and choosing to be self-employed than ever before. They’re engaging in activities beyond the classroom, such as entrepreneurial societies, and developing their soft skills, which are not always reflected in an exam grade. In spite of this, the students in our community often find it difficult to engage with politicians. We work to advocate for these students, the dreamers, the strivers, and the innovators, opening up more meaningful engagement channels between young people and politicians.”

Panellists at the SEQT, held at the Crowne Plaze, were Johnny Luk, CEO of NACUE; Lorely Burt, Liberal Democrat Party MP for Solihull; Julian Huppert, Liberal Democrat Party MP for Cambridge; Andrew Freeman, Director of The Finance Foundation and Tony Quinn, Santander.

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