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Give some time to mentoring in schools – you’ll find little that’s more rewarding

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Global Entrepreneurship Week is a time for celebration and an opportunity to recognise the vital role that entrepreneurship can play in creating jobs and driving economic growth. But being an entrepreneur isn’t just limited to business, it’s a mindset that can help all aspects of our lives and society – it’s something we should definitely be mentoring in schools.

In my role as an ambassador for Mosaic, a dedicated mentoring initiative that’s part of The Prince’s Trust, I’ve seen first-hand how entrepreneurs and business professionals mentoring in schools are helping to make a real difference to the lives of young people growing up in some of our most deprived communities.

As a case in point, last month Mosaic relaunched its flagship Enterprise Challenge. Held annually, the initiative pairs volunteer mentors from the business community with groups of secondary school pupils. The mentors (many of which are entrepreneurs in their own right or drawn from businesses such as KPMG, M&S, PwC and HSBC), support small teams of students, helping them formulate a business idea all the way from initial conception to thinking about every area of the business: budgeting, turnover, marketing, staff, distribution and scale.

The teams then pitch their ideas to a panel of judges, with the best judged teams going through to regional finals and eventually the national final. Here, the strongest six teams from across the country compete for real investment in their business.

The role of the mentors in the competition is crucial – although teachers do a superb job equipping our young people with the skills they need to succeed in their adult lives, the use of real business people adds a different dimension, which students very much benefit from.

This kind of mentoring in schools works – an independent report by NatCen Social Research into Mosaic’s Secondary School mentoring programme found the participants revealed improved levels of self-esteem and confidence, as well as more defined future plans. And it’s not just mentees who see the benefits; I often hear mentors say that mentoring has given them a sense of personal and professional fulfilment beyond anything they’ve ever done before.

Ultimately, young people represent our country’s future and should all have access to support that boosts their confidence and helps them realise their potential, regardless of background or circumstance. Of course, not every pupil in the UK is going to become the next “Dragon”, but regardless of the career path they choose to take; self-belief, perseverance and ambition are qualities I believe all children should be equipped with. Initiatives like the Enterprise Challenge are a fantastic way to support this.

If you’d like to volunteer as a mentor for Mosaic’s Enterprise Challenge, or any other of its mentoring programmes, then please do get in touch.

James Caan CBE is the founder and CEO of Hamilton Bradshaw. The company was founded in 2004 and specialises in buyouts, venture capital, turnarounds, and real estate investment in the UK. In 2007, Caan was invited to join the panel of popular BBC TV show Dragons’ Den. During his time on the show, he invested in a diverse range of businesses.

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