With the aim of establishing new links between business and education, Young Enterprise Scotland (YES) has appointed three new Ambassadors to build these connections which will be more vital than ever in the post-pandemic jobs climate


MAKING the connection between what is taught in schools and colleges and what is required in business is seen as one of the key pillars not only for our economy recovery following the pandemic but also for long term economic success. 

The latest response from Young Enterprise Scotland (YES) to this particular challenge has been to enlist the support of three prominent figures from academia and industry. 

Prof Sir Jim McDonald, Poonam Gupta OBE and Peter Proud have all been appointed as ambassadors to the education charity to boost its campaign to embed enterprise learning into the curriculum and build those vital connections.

“It is important that the world of enterprise is connected to the world of education,” says Ms Gupta. Having arrived in Scotland in 2003, but with no experience she struggled to find a job.

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Rather than let this be a negative experience, she started her paper business from her kitchen table. Today PG Paper is an international success. For her, young people should ‘get more chances to get involved in the world of work before they leave school’. 

Prof Sir Jim McDonald, Principal and Vice-Chancellor of Strathclyde University agrees: “The continuing acceleration and impacts of digital technology on the workplace and jobs generally means we must not only educate young people about technical aspects, but also to be able to thrive in a dynamically changing environment where they may change jobs several times and have to continue their learning and professional development throughout their working lives. 

“Achieving a strong balance between education provision and training helps satisfy business and industry needs and can excite more young people into pursuing careers in emerging sectors and those undergoing digital change.”
He wants to see ‘a shared vision for the world of future work between business, industry, schools, colleges and universities and then collaborate and co-invest to build opportunities for our young people’.

The new YES ambassadors will support the Young Enterprise Scotland programmes, host events and meet some of the young people to offer inspiration. For all three, it is the skills and most importantly the mindset that young people learn through the education system and YES programmes that really matter.

Peter Proud is CEO and founder of the rapidly growing cloud-native global software business, Forrit, but confesses to dreaming of a different career at school.

“My ambition at school was to be a fast jet pilot. I was devastated when I passed the initial tests only to be failed on having legs that are too long. It was all I had ever wanted to be,” he said.

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“It is not just about the key skills that young people need to enter the world of work, it is about attributes. It is about having the ability to accept different points of view. To be able to communicate efficiently and effectively and to be able to work in a team. My experience tells me that it is not always the one that does the best job who is successful but the one that communicates it well. Leadership skills are key – you can go fast alone but not far alone – harness the collective thought.”

Leadership, confidence and an enthusiasm to learn are attributes all three agree on. “The key thing missing from young people entering the world of work is confidence, no matter what level of educational attainment they have when they join us,” says Ms Gupta. “If there are things that schools could do more of then I believe one should be that leadership skills development is recognised, and nurtured.”

Prof McDonald says confidence is “critical” for the transition from school to the workplace, “we should always remember that entering the world of work is a major life event for anyone; I’m sure we all can recall the early days we spent in a job, whether part-time or our first big opportunity as a “new start”. So, demystifying what “work” is all about, instilling excitement about starting careers and offering work experience are all key to launching a young person successfully into the world of work.”

But what of ‘enterprise’? Prof McDonald continues: “As well as preparing our young people to become skilled employees, it is essential we help develop their enterprising spirits too. This can help them think about becoming self-employed or seek to apply an entrepreneurial approach in firms they may join; many employers will see such new employees as valuable as the power and value of innovation and enterprise is now beyond a ‘nice to have’ to have become more of a commercial necessity. 

“Organisations such as YES play a key role in raising the awareness of both young people and the employer community that enterprise, innovation and entrepreneurship development should be seen as an asset for the individual and the organisation in equal measure. Our schools, colleges and universities – in collaboration with business, industry, YES and others – can consider how we inspire young people to embrace these opportunities.”

Mr Proud concludes: “If I had an ask of education, it would be to stop taking a cookie cutter approach. All students have different skills and learn in different ways. We need to help each young person really know what they excel at. To recognise what their strengths and weaknesses are and help them achieve the best they can. Education should be the foundation for all – the modern world is about teamwork and respect for others.”


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