YE Scotland is nurturing the nation’s young entrepreneurial talent through its Bridge 2 Business programme, which seeks to combine practical experience with motivational mentoring from local role models

Learning by doing is the way most of us learn best. It is the YE Scotland mantra, it’s what we encourage young people to do – and we practice what we preach.
The COVID 19 pandemic brought many issues to bear for young people, not least because of opportunities lost. It’s meant that we have had to adapt to make sure that young people are given the best chance to learn and discover their entrepreneurial talent.

Despite it all, young people setting out on their careers remain aspirational and entrepreneurial. Encouragingly, surveys continue to show that a majority of them are keen to set up their own business.  What’s also clear is that their input in to the Scottish economy is going to be critical going forward. So it’s essential that we encourage them to believe they can contribute positively and thrive as their own bosses. It is also a potential lifeline for many whose education has been hit hard by the pandemic. They need to see there is a journey that they can take that allows them to focus on developing potential outside academic achievement.

It’s also key to ensure that they have the skills required by any entrepreneurial company or to allow them to develop their own business ideas. So how to fill the gap between that ambition and the reality of life in post-pandemic Scotland?
Bridge 2 Business is the leading enterprise programme for Colleges of Further Education in Scotland, and it is supporting young people forge that path forward towards creating new and successful businesses. Where it has found most success is in areas deemed to have little in terms of economic or employment opportunity.

The programme offers a range of services to inspire, connect and support FE college students in to and through enterprise. Students, aged 18-30, are given first-hand opportunities to experience what enterprise is, what it can do for them in terms of starting up a business, developing their skills and, most importantly, for employability. Giving them access to “local heroes”, appropriate entrepreneurial role models who may only be a few years older, Bridge 2 Business is proving invaluable for college students interested in setting up their own business, now or in the future, or for those who are looking to take enterprise skills to their workplace. Hearing from those role models can show that all things are possible.

Alongside that opportunity to meet and engage, the programme helps connect students with the great networks that exist in Scotland to support our much-needed start-up businesses. We also offer them the chance to apply for a small grant to test out their business ideas. Those who are successful are matched with a mentor from the local business community, who will be able to give help and advice as they progress with their business plans.

Bridge 2 Business is acknowledged as a very effective programme, but we haven’t rested on our laurels. As a result, we adapted it to be delivered online, which has seen the programme grow and engage with more students than ever before. Initiatives such as #Femaleboss and Social Innovators Challenge competition are in response to young people’s requests to better understand what enterprise can do for them; develop their skills; build a network; and become part of a nation-wide enterprise community of their peers.  

The growing need for enterprise education across colleges in Scotland has been recognised in the welcome support for the Bridge 2 Business programme with 11 out of the 17 colleges now investing. Collaborating with the colleges to tailor programmes, find the right role models and deliver bespoke support critically brings success in areas of poor economic prospects. One college which has been working with YE Scotland for a number of years is Forth Valley College. Principal Ken Thomson believes the programme is an invaluable asset to his students:
“Our relationship, that partnership with YE Scotland, is a true collaboration between our curriculum areas and what the students want to do once they leave. It’s very much something we don’t use as an add on, we incorporate it in to the learning for everybody. 

“That might be the students you’d expect, those who are going directly out to potentially start up their own businesses, whether that’s in salon services, graphic design or photography. But it’s also right through to our engineering apprentices, who are keen to understand business for whenever they want to go on their own.
YE Scotland and our college really believe in enterprise education as something that is core – needs to be core – for every young person coming through. 

“It’s not necessarily about going in to business for themselves, it’s about understanding self, building confidence, understanding money, understanding the impact you can have on your own environment, giving you a vision or a direction. 
These things are all about enterprise, about how a young person can make an impact on their own future while understanding what they need is the core skills.”

As more and more young people look to starting their own businesses, this YE Scotland’s programme has never been more essential. Colleges and their students see great value in what we are doing to give practical support to the next generation of entrepreneurs. Not just grants, not just mentoring, but a programme that develops people’s skills and tests their ideas in a safe yet dynamic environment.
Bridge 2 Business continues to lead the way in inspiring, connecting and supporting students across tertiary education and getting involved in enterprise, which is crucial if we are to kickstart economic growth. 

This article was brought to you in association with YE Scotland