It’s never too early to learn business skills and those who start at school will be more resilient in the workplace, writes Geoff Leask of Young Enterprise Scotland.

In times of uncertainty, it is always tempting to sink back into the familiar. In education, that pull towards traditional subjects and conventional teaching practice is very powerful and indeed they will always have their place.

However, I am heartened by the number of reports released over the past few weeks that have not only recognised the opportunity to use the pandemic as a jumping-off point for new and radical thinking about what and how we teach our children in school, but have also strongly advocated funding this new approach.

During this crisis, the one thing that screams out at me louder than anything else is the need to engage young people throughout their educational journey in enterprise education.

Learning the entrepreneurial tool kit is fundamental if we want to develop people capable of being the innovators, the job creators and the intrapreneurs that make organisations more relevant, agile and resilient in the future.

This is acknowledged in the Scottish Government’s response to the Advisory Group on Economic Recovery where it is documented that support for Scotland’s entrepreneurial ambitions needs to start early. The Government supports Young Enterprise Scotland to work with Scotland’s young people in schools and colleges to build their ambition and knowledge to create the businesses of the future, but the question now is how we build and extend the programme at a time when teachers face unprecedented pressures.

Perhaps the first answer is to provide the evidence that it works and that entrepreneurship, like any skill, can be learned.

HeraldScotland: Geoff Leask, CEO of Young Enterprise ScotlandGeoff Leask, CEO of Young Enterprise Scotland

Earlier this month, the Entrepreneurs Network released its report entitled Educating Future Founders. It states that there are significant benefits to a long-term, co-ordinated approach and one that is universally offered.

As proof, it provides an analysis of nearly 10,000 Swedish young people who had participated in an enterprise learning programme over the past 16 years. It concludes that these students were more likely to start a business, with participants earning on average 10.2 per cent more from entrepreneurship more than a decade after compared to entrepreneurs who did not participate.

There is already evidence that participating in enterprise education programmes at university leads to high earnings, a greater likelihood of starting a business, and promotes the transfer of technology from university to the private sector.

But there is also strong evidence that enterprise programmes in secondary schools can develop financial literacy, business awareness and a resilient mindset that is important to everyone entering the workplace.

Even earlier intervention – entrepreneurial education in primary schools – can help form non-cognitive skills such as teamwork, self-esteem and good communication.

The Entrepreneurs Network report found that one-third of young people aged 18-24 worldwide intend to start up a business in the next three years, with a further 14% already running businesses. In the UK, where the number of young people who work for themselves has doubled since 2001, providing them with the skillset early on makes a lot of sense.

Scotland is already leading the way in the UK through the SCQF qualification – the equivalent to a Higher – for the Young Enterprise Scotland Company Programme, which tasks students to set up and run their own business. What the Educating Future Founders report gives us is an evidence-based analysis of the long-term value of this education.

So, let’s not wait until the storms of uncertainty subside before we start to put into action the recommendations of the many reports that have been written in the last six months. Let us, as a nation, walk the walk and put into operation more of the good stuff that we know with confidence works.

Entrepreneurial skills are valued by employers and entrepreneurship education programmes aimed at secondary school students have been shown to reduce the risk that a young person will become unemployed later in life.

Our challenge, right now, is to work with teachers and educators to build this firmly into the curriculum.

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A learning experience

ONE young entrepreneur who credits Young Enterprise Scotland for guiding him on the path to business success is Ayrshire-based Craig Johnstone, CEO and founder of Giglets, a digital educational publisher that provides online e-learning solutions and support for teachers, pupils and parents.

Johnstone, now 31, got involved with Young Enterprise Scotland when he was at school and embarked on its Company Programme for S5 and S6 pupils. This involves setting up and running their own company, developing a range of skills and gaining entrepreneurial experience.

HeraldScotland: Craig Johnstone, CEO and founder of GigletsCraig Johnstone, CEO and founder of Giglets

Today, the Giglets business is an online reading resource accessed by over 100,000 pupils every week.

“I think one of the programme’s strengths is that I didn’t just develop the skills required to run my own business – it helped me hone my leadership and communications skills too,” says Johnstone. “It instilled in me those early foundations that would help me navigate complex situations further down the line.

"We are now in the process of raising investment for the next stage of our growth trajectory to enable us to grow our business at home and abroad.”

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Helping young people to make a difference

By Daniel Barrie

Our children are facing an uncertain future. We are living through a climate emergency, the natural systems that we all depend on are under threat, and the places we love are being threatened by human behaviour. Our children need access to information and experiences that help them understand what we can all do to protect our planet.

Educating young people is a key area of work for environmental charity Keep Scotland Beautiful which has supported educators and children across the country through the international
Eco-Schools programme for more than 25 years.

Some of our employees can directly track the passion they have for the environment back to the experiences and tools they were given as part of an eco-committee – that is some legacy.

Eco-Schools is the largest sustainable schools programme in the world, with 19.5 million children, young people and educators engaged across 67 countries. Operated internationally by the Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE) and delivered by Keep Scotland Beautiful in Scotland, it provides a positive framework for real global climate action and achievement of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

Behind the familiar Green Flags, which fly proudly from nursery, primary and secondary schools, is a programme funded by the Scottish Government which promotes broad participation and engagement across the whole school.

But what does Eco-Schools mean right now, to educators and young people in Scotland? When young people are striking for action to tackle climate change, when the future they are facing is marred by a climate and nature emergency, and an emerging litter emergency – particularly in our seas and oceans – the programme has never been more relevant.

During the journey to Green Flag status the school eco-committee chooses three of 10 topics to evidence work against. Climate change weaves its way through them all, and others include biodiversity, energy, litter and transport.

We provide online resources and, more recently, have started delivering online teaching, in partnership with e-Sgoil, directly to teachers and pupils at home.

If something positive can be learned from the current pandemic it is that decisive, difficult action across many sectors is possible.

The massive shift to online communication has opened a wider reach to educators and young people, many of whom are interested in learning more about environmental actions they can take.

We are continuing to provide online support for the
Eco-Schools process in addition to our complementary Climate Ready Classrooms programme aimed at secondary school pupils, our One Planet Picnic, and Young Reporters for the Environment activity.

It is vital that we capture and harness the appetite we are seeing for environmental education and that we support our educators to reconnect young people with nature – and inspire them to take action to protect and enhance the places we care for.    

www.keepscotlandbeautiful.org/ecoschoolsscotland