The silicon playground: will there be more entrepreneurs in the next generation?

A recent survey found that 42 per cent of the eight to 16 year olds surveyed wanted to start their own business. But currently only six per cent of UK start-ups are run by people under 25 - so how can business, education and government help this next generation of entrepreneurs?

Across the UK, people under 25 are launching successful start-up businesses, many of them tech-based. Business website start-ups.co.uk lists 20 young entrepreneurs to watch this year, including vloggers, app developers, the creator of a social housing solution in India and the 13-year old founder of children’s brand 'Not Before Tea'.

Another study from Microsoft from last year indicated that businesses founded by young entrepreneurs are more likely to have healthier finances than those with older founders, so whether you choose to start a business in your teens, or whether you get a great idea on your gap year or during studying, you’ve got a good chance of succeeding if youth is on your side. But is there enough support for young entrepreneurs? It seems like more must be done now, if we want the UK to become a haven for the next generation of young entrepreneurs.

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How schools can do more

A recent Ofsted report, 'Getting ready for work', says that not enough is being done at secondary school level to encourage the next generation of entrepreneurs. For many pupils a focus on curriculum means that examinations are the driving force, leaving little room for a broad subject like enterprise education.

In the report chief inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw commented on the importance of schools 'providing the right opportunities' and ‘working effectively with local businesses to offer their pupils the chance to understand how businesses work'. Pupils from all backgrounds should have 'access to an education that prepares them well for the next stage of their lives, be that higher education, entering employment or setting up their own business'.

Read: What's the best age to start a business?

How universities can do more

A quarter of students have started, or plan to start, a business whilst at university, but the numbers fall post-graduation. Although many universities run business courses and have start-up hubs, this entrepreneurial intention disappears after graduation.  

Professor David Gibson is one of the most successful entrepreneurship educators in the world. He has worked with over 50 universities and colleges worldwide to develop courses helping students of all disciplines develop the entrepreneurial competencies to thrive and survive in the modern world. He previously worked at Queen’s University Belfast, where he developed an enterprise model that integrated entrepreneurial skills into all the university’s degree programmes. This work won him the first OBE for enterprise education in 2012. He recommends that the enterprise model he used at Queen’s is rolled out nationwide. He stresses the importance of competing for jobs in a global economy and the need to be innovative and entrepreneurial. "Not all students will want to start their own business, but many will be freelance and some will have portfolio careers."

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How Government and business can do more

The UK Government offers some financial support to help entrepreneurs grow their business and there are post-Brexit proposals, but many business owners think that it’s not enough at a local or national level. The Business Census 2017 report reveals that the number of businesses unhappy with their support from local government has gone up by 10 per cent in the last year, with 70 per cent of UK firms saying it’s not good enough.

Virgin StartUp is an official Delivery Partner of the UK Government’s Start Up Loans Scheme which was launched in 2012, with the aim of promoting entrepreneurship and tackling the problem of accessing finance. Since launching, the scheme has provided funding to nearly 38,000 businesses.

There is also Innovate UK, the UK's innovation agency. This executive non-departmental public body, which is sponsored by the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy, works with people, companies and partner organisations to find and drive the science and technology innovations that will grow the UK economy.

There are various charities and trusts which help young people set up businesses, like The Prince’s Trust. However, a lot of these are very competitive and have stringent application criteria. 

But this still does not compare all that favourably to the efforts made by the government of a country such as Portugal; they have ploughed resources into developing a government-supported entrepreneurship ecosystem, and became one of the European Entrepreneurial Regions in 2015.

If the UK economy is to be driven by small start-ups, more must be done across all sectors to encourage young entrepreneurs; we need a more joined up approach from schools, universities, businesses and Government to starting enterprise education from the earliest age.

This is a guest blog and may not represent the views of Virgin.com. Please see virgin.com/terms for more details. Thumbnail from gettyimages.

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