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New report calls for better integration of entrepreneur skills at all levels of education

The All-Party Group for Micro Businesses has launched its Fifth Report since it was established in 2010. Entitled An Education System Fit for an Entrepreneur, it recognises the key role entrepreneurs play in the drive for growth, and looks at the effectiveness of our education system in supporting our entrepreneurs – from the age of 4 to 44 and beyond.

Entrepreneurs are a real strength of our British economy and the micro businesses they create are key drivers of growth. Over the last three years, there have been 400,000 new businesses created and business start ups have become increasingly popular. Small businesses add 48% to private sector turnover and comprise more than 99% by number of UK businesses. There is a growing recognition that setting up your own business is a real opportunity and option for people.

The report (which is available for download below) investigates for the first time best practice from primary school through to retirement with examples chosen from around the world and across the UK. The report includes an examination of the cognitive psychology which underpins the entrepreneurial mindset, real case studies and up to date survey data.

Although the concept of enterprise education has been discussed since 1987, this is the first UK report which looks at the need for an overarching strategy across all government departments to deliver the support needed for entrepreneurs to flourish.

The Top Ten Recommendations to support Enterprise Education are:

  1. An overarching strategy by government looking at enterprise education from primary school to retirement needs to be established, based on clear opportunities at all levels of education and for work returners.
  2. Clarity needs to be established as to what we mean by enterprise education and entrepreneurship education, both of which are crucially important but different.
  3. Teacher training should be reviewed to give teachers a better basis for engaging with the business community for the benefit of students.
  4. OFSTED assessments need to assess business engagement not just community engagement.
  5. The Higher Education sector needs to provide a module on entrepreneurship. This should be made available to all students regardless of discipline and enterprise education needs, over time, to be integrated into all mainstream courses. UUK, HEFCE and associated bodies need to step forward and practically develop this.
  6. A working group needs to be established across academe and business to put forward proposals for integrating work experience, education, mentoring and funding; the four strands which combine to deliver the best results when combined.
  7. A working group also needs to be established to look quite separately at work returners and what support should be available to enable them to set up in business later on in life.
  8. The business community should be incentivised and encouraged to be more actively involved in enterprise and entrepreneurship education through tax reliefs allowing time and expenses engaging in enterprise education to be set off against tax.
  9. The Local Enterprise Partnerships should be required to have at least two board members from the SME community and at least one of these should be a micro business.
  10. Government funding support to LEPS through the Regional Growth Fund and other government support schemes should require evidence before award of LEP engagement with enterprise education.

Matthew Hancock MP, Minister of State for Skills & Enterprise commented: “More small businesses, creating more jobs are a vital part of a long-term plan for Britain’s future. The Government welcomes the ideas put forward in this report and will consider them in due course. I would like to thank Anne Marie Morris MP and the APPG for Micro Businesses for its valuable contribution to boosting the economy of UK PLC.”

Anne Marie Morris MP commented: “Enterprise education is crucially important if the growth agenda is to succeed.  We need to create enquiring minds open to new ideas and able to spot opportunities. We also need to ensure education in entrepreneurship is available to all, not just those that make it to business school. Entrepreneurs emerge across the age range. I met a young lad of 9 recently who had just set up his own business. As he put it “my teachers don’t get it”. Clearly many teachers do get it as our research shows but that support is not universally there – and it should not just be a matter of luck!”

“I know the government is listening. But what we now need is to make real progress and set out concrete steps which I hope proposals from our report will provide the building blocks for. But none of this would have been possible without the tremendous hard work of four leading academics in the area; Stu Anderson MBA from Blue Serac, Prof. Andy Penaluna from University of Wales, Trinity St David, Dr Kelly Smith from University of Huddersfield and Prof. Nigel Culkin from ISBE and University of Hertfordshire.”

On behalf of the authors, Professor Andy Penaluna added:

“What impressed us most were the education champions that we met during our investigations. There is a clear energy amongst the educators that we met to engage with this important agenda, and they have evidenced the many creative ways that they have got things done – usually driven by the needs of their pupils and students. The other remarkable thing was how many of the entrepreneurs echoed similar thoughts to those of the teachers, researchers and lecturers that we listened to over the past 14 months. Consequently a clear way forward has emerged.

Now the debate can be less about what we need to do, but more directly concerned with ways in which we can implement these findings and to provide meaningful education that matches the needs of an innovative and entrepreneurial society.”

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