“Entrepreneurial thinking is needed for 21st-century skills,” says Jon Allen, MD and co-founder of Enploy, a platform for teaching entrepreneurial mindsets for young people and for employers, and a judge at the NatWest Great British Entrepreneur Awards. This is his take on what it takes to be an entrepreneur, his advice, and what he would like to see the government do.
At Enploy: “We measure, benchmark and teach entrepreneurial mindsets for young people and for employers” says Jon, and then cites creative thinking, and opportunity recognition as examples of entrepreneurial skills: “We think that those skills and mindsets are not taught as well as they should be in the current education system.”
The world is changing, that may seem obvious, but too many people have not yet appreciated how much change we are set to see over the next decade or two? The labour market will change, the gig economy is becoming pervasive, the era of a job or even career for life is over. And that is why Jon reckons that entrepreneurial thinking is one of those skills that will be required in the labour market that is emerging, just as the ability to read and write is also important.
But that also means, more start-ups. “Tech has made it possible for people to set up their own business and do what they want to,” says Jon, adding: “The pace of change is faster than ever, so start-ups can innovate and disrupt the ‘big guys’ so there is opportunity, if you do it well, to be very successful.”
He mentions AI as an example of something that is “changing the world of work,” adding that “most jobs that we have now will be redundant in the next twenty years. We have not even heard of most of the jobs that we will have in the next twenty years.” And that means that people will need to change, to adapt, to be flexible, to be resilient, it is crucial for success in the future.”
But this new entrepreneurial culture that is emerging in the UK, the surge in the number of start-ups, is not just about making money, the younger generation, what they call the millennials “have a different relationship and views on work. The importance of work in their life combined with their personal values and what they want to get out of work has changed. They want to give back more.”
And the motivation “is not all to do with the end salary – there is more to their work/life balance, they want to learn and develop, if traditional businesses don’t provide that, then that is to their detriment.”
Okay, so we have a more entrepreneurial way of thinking, but what advice would Jon have for someone thinking of starting up? “Never die not knowing, but you also need resilience, perseverance and you must hold on to your vision.”
But it ain’t easy. “When you see Richard Branson on billboards you don’t see the reality of getting to that position, the hardships, you have to be prepared to risk all, make sacrifices and go through hard times and the danger of making entrepreneurs heroes is that it looks easy and that anyone can do it.”
So, what can we do to make the UK fit for the 21st century by nurturing a more entrepreneurial way of thinking?
Jon starts with education. “Peer learning – getting influential people from local communities to talk about their own experiences” is vital. He explains that they can “try to bring it to life for children.” It is important that the kids experience it first hand, “so work experience and real life business projects are great too.” In a world when everyone is fighting for attention and attention spans are reducing, you have really got to bring that learning to life. Entrepreneurial characteristics can be taught to anyone – there is too much emphasis on passing exams and not enough on teaching attitudes, behaviours and skills that equip people to succeed at work. ”
And finally, what can the government do? “The government needs to work with educators, employers and training providers to ensure that the apprenticeship levy is a success. There is an opportunity to readjust the balance between academic attainment and practical training by breathing new life into work readiness skills appropriate to the 21st Century such as an Entrepreneurial way of thinking.”
It seems that it is time to embrace the challenge, the opportunity is there, but UK plc needs to see more entrepreneurial mindsets nurtured.
The UK is emerging an entrepreneurial success story – but more needs to be done, and one way to achieve this is to shine the media spotlight on entrepreneurs, their challenges, their failures and of course their successes.
The NatWestGreat British Entrepreneur Awards are currently open for applications, and entrants can apply here.