Several studies in the past have highlighted the importance of entrepreneurship in driving a country’s economy forward. Entrepreneurs are regarded as a nation’s assets. They are directly involved in generating wealth, creating more jobs, and developing ways for a prosperous society.
At a time when the UK’s economy is slowly emerging from the massive credit crunch and youth unemployment is at an all-time high, the need for encouraging an entrepreneurial mindset in today’s youth cannot be underestimated.
A recent report by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) for UK Trade and Investment (UKTI) has highlighted the need to, ‘foster an entrepreneurial mindset in youth both through education systems and business experience’.
It investigates the ‘contribution that education and business can and should make towards encouraging entrepreneurship’.
In its global survey, 30 per cent of young people preferred to run their own business by 2020. More generally, 75 per cent are willing to start a company one day and a further 7 per cent have already done so.
A significant proportion of student respondents consider running one’s own business as a source of personal satisfaction in their work (37 per cent) and a way to create something new / innovative (35 per cent).
At the same time, the survey also threw light on how most people are unaware of the hurdles that they might face in this career path. However, isn’t every career path strewn with its own set of obstacles?
When the importance of entrepreneurs is recognised everywhere, isn’t there a need to come up with a robust mentoring plan to shape the dreams of aspiring entrepreneurs?
Often the decision of starting one’s own business is shrugged off by most due to the notion that entrepreneurs are born not made. Certain qualities like passion, determination and hard work play a crucial role in achieving success.
The recent study, however, proves beyond doubt how policy choices and the cultural environment can help aspiring entrepreneurs understand, ‘what they need to know to avoid some of the many pitfalls of starting a business’.
Prior to the election date, Jim Duffy, CEO and founder of Entrepreneurial Spark, ‘called for all of the top political parties to consider entrepreneurs in their manifestos for the sake of the UK economy’.
Backing him, a Scottish firm, Blue Branch Ltd outlined some of the key policies that politicians should embrace to help encourage entrepreneurial growth. Some of the recommendations include the appointment of a minister dedicated to entrepreneurs, a rise in the VAT threshold to at least £100,000 and further tax breaks in the first three years.
Some may argue that since the emergence of the coalition government, one can witness an unprecedented rise in the levels of start-ups. However, experts have been quick to point out that this trend is a superficial one. Moreover, in a recent study, researchers at Newcastle University argued how ‘entrepreneurs are losing out because of a lack of rural-proofing in government policy’. Despite the diverse economic potential, entrepreneurs are unable to leverage the farming, forestry and food sectors due to the lack of integrated policies. The government still lacks innovative and coherent strategies to foster entrepreneurship.
As MP Vince Cable, former Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, rightly pointed out some years ago, there is historically a lack of entrepreneur culture in the UK.
Speaking at an event in London in 2013, he had argued that there is also a huge absence of entrepreneurial culture in higher education.
This lack affects primarily the young entrepreneurs who in turn face the most challenges. Finance, guidance, and professional skills are needed to materialise a business plan. When starting out in their careers, availability of support and a mentoring service can make this process a smoother one for graduates.
Besides, education also exerts a positive influence on entrepreneurial success. It is well documented how the lack of proper planning and execution can bring about a lot of damage not just to the individual but also to the economy in general.
Among entrepreneurs surveyed, 79 per cent cited their university education as having aided them to start their own business. However, very few regarded their primary and secondary schooling as a top influence in deciding to launch their business.
Although most successful entrepreneurs consider their academic degree as an advantage, they accept that traditional teaching methods are not conducive to entrepreneurship.
The report recommends that skills such as problem-solving, communication and networking should be given greater focus at both primary and secondary school levels. At university level, special modules dedicated to developing business skills and giving practical experience should be incorporated within the curriculum.
With the creation of a conducive educational environment and strong governmental policies, aspiring entrepreneurs can become real drivers of the economy.