Chancellor’s offer to help SMEs take on apprentices is a step in the right direction

There are still 912,000 16-24-year-olds out of work, but the tide has to turn at some point. A lot of work has to be done to make sure these young people don’t become a lost generation and the additional help the Chancellor offered to SMEs to take on apprentices is a step in the right direction.

However, as long as babies are born and grow into teenagers, there will continue to be a flow of young people who, if they don’t have the right skills won’t be attractive to any potential employers. 

And I don’t just mean practical, vocational skills that can be applied directly in the workplace, but the life skills that provide an understanding of how businesses operate and what is expected from a young person when they become a member of the workforce.

Of course, we need a workforce with people at the front line armed with the knowledge and skills to help businesses succeed, but any army is only as good as the generals giving it direction. This is why, as well as a shift towards a greater proportion of vocational learning, the education system has to help develop the next generation of business owners. These are the people that will drive the economy forward, but it looks like the next generation might be coming up a little short.

According to a study called the RBS Enterprise Tracker, young people are more likely than older people to believe that starting their own business is not a serious career goal.

Of the 2,358 people interviewed almost a third of 18-30 year-olds aren’t considering starting their own enterprise, which more than suggests that becoming an entrepreneur is not on the list of career choices for young people. 

This is very sad. Entrepreneurs are innovative and creative, driven and inquisitive. We need to nurture any entrepreneurial spirit that emerges from young people and not drum it out of them by just teaching them just how to get through exams.

This may not be the case in every school and college across the country, but it appears to be a common theme. 

We need to give children the opportunity to become entrepreneurs and also give them the chance to learn about how to run a business that can, one day, become a cornerstone of the SME sector.

This can only happen if the education system truly reflects the needs of the country and the economy. If it doesn’t, the future may not be that bright after all.

Charlie Mullins is CEO and founder of Pimlico Plumbers.

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