SMEs are the backbone of the UK economy – so why are the skills needed to build a business not taught in schools?

There is something to be said for learning ‘on the job’ – entrepreneurs must use their initiative to blaze a trail, after all – but without the fundamentals, mistakes could prove costly down the line.

Amanda Perry, for example, grew her baking business, Fancy, from her kitchen into a thriving company with three shops and a commercial bakery. However, within a few years, the company had collapsed and she was filing for bankruptcy due to “a serious lack of attention to detail”.

As graduates and school leavers take their first steps in the world of business, does it make sense to leave the likelihood of them realising their potential open to chance?

“In a rapidly evolving job market and economy, the way we think about youth skills needs to change,” says Michele Romanow, co-founder and CEO at revenue-sharing platform Clearco. “England is one of the few places in Europe that has yet to develop a strategy for entrepreneurship in schools. 

“Yet, to help set young people up with the skills and competencies that are both desired by employers and essential to the next generation of entrepreneurs, we must look beyond traditional education and offer young people the opportunity to learn skills including entrepreneurship.”

Dragons’ Den

The tech entrepreneur, board director and venture capitalist is a judge on Canada’s version of Dragons’ Den. Her business allows entrepreneurs, including Melissa Snover of Birningham’s Nourished, to access capital to grow their business without diluting their holding.

Speaking on World Youth Skills Day, she says this kind of learning at school-age is also essential for creating a level playing field in the future job market and economy. 

“The WEF (World Economic Forum) has announced that it will take another 132 years to close the global gender gap,” she explains. “Young people of all genders, backgrounds and ethnicities must be given the ability to pursue their career and entrepreneurial goals.

“As leaders, it’s our responsibility to share our learnings and help to nurture the next generation of future leaders. As 1 of only 23 female founders of a unicorn FinTech company, I’m conscious of my role to inspire the next generation of entrepreneurs and in particular, give young women the confidence they need to succeed.”

World Youth Skills Day

World Youth Skills Day, celebrated on July 15th, is an initiative led by the United Nations. 

Peggy De Lange, VP of international expansion at Israeli-headquartered global freelance platform Fiverr, says the day is “all about transforming youth skills to support future generations”. 

“This is even more important amid the concerning backdrop of rising levels of poverty following the economic damage caused by the COVID-19 pandemic,” she continues.

“As business leaders, we need to offer the next generation a leg-up to help equip them with the right skills for employment and entrepreneurship. Now, there are more opportunities than ever to explore different types of career paths. 

“The rise of the self-employment sector and the creator economy, in particular, has given people more options when exploring what career path to pursue.

“What’s more, the emergence of the anywhere working economy means that workers can have more autonomy over how and from where they work. On our Fiverr platform, we’ve seen a multitude of creative ways in which people are building careers.

“We need to empower the younger generation to explore any career path they’re passionate about and not shy away from offering more non-traditional routes such as freelancing. Our job is to support and inspire young people and, in the process hopefully, create an army of entrepreneurs and future leaders.”

I met my ‘tech for good’ co-founder on Instagram!

Give them purpose, autonomy & the tools they need

Jonathan Anguelov, co-founder of Paris-based call centre software company Aircall, says there is a responsibility to embrace future talent and provide opportunities for mentoring and coaching. 

“Only then can we accommodate a new generation of workers, the strength of whose diverse backgrounds I have always believed can unlock creativity and potential in the workplace,” he says. 

“They’re capable of enriching customer interactions with the latest insights, trends and perspectives; ones that keep us connected to, and inclusive of, ever-changing and increasingly diverse customer expectations.

“The younger generation needs to know who to look up to, according to their personal values. As the war for talent grows more competitive, businesses need to create a better working environment providing this sense of value, belonging, and fostering a safe place for all. 

“Workers no longer want a 9-5 – they want purpose and autonomy, and need the tools for both.”