Challenges of Enterprise Education – are we really addressing them?

Written by Alison Price


With institutional dynamics, national drivers and the local context to keep track of, together with changing student needs and developing ambitions of senior management, the life of an Enterprise Educator can be complex.  It is therefore rare to find a new policy report that provides the stats you need to make arguments but also gives you pause for thought about your own approach.

EEUK welcomes the new report Future Founders: Understanding the Next Generation of Entrepreneurs from The Entrepreneurs Network and Octopus Group as it shines a light on entrepreneurship, from the position of the young people we are teaching now and in the next few years (as the respondents are aged between 14-25).

EEUK Associates will find their arguments for culture change and increased enterprise education supported by these “killer facts” (taken from the ComRes survey of 1,549 young people) within this report which finds:

  • Exposure to entrepreneurship is a key driver of entrepreneurial intention.
  • The report finds that university education clearly influences entrepreneurial ambition: 65% of young people attending university have thought about starting (or have already started) a business, compared to just 53% of 18-25 year olds who didn’t go to university.
  • Only 15% rule out becoming an entrepreneur
  • 51% have thought about starting (or have already started) a business
  • A further 35% are open to the idea of starting a business.
  • The main barriers to starting a business were “not knowing where to start” (70%) and fear of failure (68%).
  • The Gender gap continues as a confidence gap evidenced by the fact that women (71%) were more likely to cite fear of failure as a barrier than men (63%).
  • Of those who were able to name an entrepreneur, just 15% named a female entrepreneur.
  • A desire to “be your own boss” (86%) and the “freedom to do what I want” (84%) were the top motivations for 14-25 year olds who have thought about starting companies.

These are the statistics that can help create buy-in and change at those critical institutional meetings, but the real insight comes from shining a light on our own practice.

Are we building on the increasing awareness and interest in entrepreneurship as a career option, or are we so stretched that we are seeing an increase in numbers, and forgetting to do a “check” on how accessible our services actually are? (When did you last ask yourself, what is the gender split in your incubator? or is your business start-up service matching industry/sector provision with innovative “breakfast workshops” or long days at “bootcamp” only to realise that you are replicating barriers to start-up that perpetuate gender imbalance or limited accessibility to those with caring responsibilities? In offering start-up support are you offering a “fail-fast” methodology that supports your targets? or seeking to create the safe space that builds the confidence of those who might not otherwise engage?)

This report evidences the need to provide safe space to try out skills and build business competence. EEUK recognises that the breadth of the “enterprise education” offer, rather than just focusing on entrepreneurship education, provides this much needed support to our students, if we are doing it well.

Read the report and reflect on your practice, then use it to drive change!

Alison Price, Head of Policy, Enterprise Educators UK