UK: Nurturing Future Generations

Last Updated: 25 November 2014
Article by Smith & Williamson

Sherry Coutu set up Founders4Schools (F4S) in 2012. F4S stems from a series of events staged by Silicon Valley Comes to the UK, in which entrepreneurs talked with university students to inspire them to think about starting their own businesses. F4S quickly realised that, to really have an impact, it would have to start earlier and shifted its focus to schools.

How does F4S work?

F4S brings students into contact with job creators by helping teachers invite founders of successful businesses into the classroom. Teachers can enter their school postcode and through partnerships with LinkedIn and DueDil, F4S delivers search results of founders in a 20-mile radius with a minimum turnover of £1m and positive year-on-year growth. Teachers can view profiles of these founders and select those they would like to invite. The service sends invitations directly to founders and monitors and manages these invitations. F4S alerts teachers by email when founders are confirmed for their event. It also automatically generates a website that teachers can share with colleagues and students, which includes profiles of speakers and information on the event.

At each event, business founders speak about what they studied when they were in school, what motivated them to set up their businesses and why they recommend entrepreneurship as a leading career choice.

Why is it so important for children to learn about entrepreneurship?

Research shows that over 50% of jobs created in the UK in the last ten years were created by 6% of companies and that these are small, high-growth companies started by entrepreneurs. These companies report that the prime barrier to increased growth is a shortage of employees who have the skill sets they need.

At the same time, attitudes and cultural references take shape at an early age and students are tracked on the subjects they will study early on. Despite this, schools don't cover entrepreneurship and don't provide exposure to entrepreneurs as role models. Students don't know what entrepreneurship is, why it's relevant and how impactful it can be in their community. As a result, many students are unaware of the skills that are required for the jobs available or don't see themselves as future job creators in the economy.

Why the emphasis on STEM subjects?

There is a huge shortage of employees with STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) skills in the workforce today and at the same time students don't see the relevance of studying STEM outside of the classroom. F4S events help bring STEM to life by showing students practical applications of STEM and that studying maths or science doesn't mean that you have to work in a lab – if that's not what you want to do – it opens up the door to possibilities in the world of business as well.

How is F4S's work helping to plug the skills gap?

Technology is changing the jobs landscape quickly. The first step in keeping up with that change is showing students what jobs look like today and what they will look like tomorrow, so they're exposed to the possibilities in front of them and can see the different paths they can take to get there – all from role models in their local communities. Our founders show students that it's attainable.

How do entrepreneurs benefit from the experience?

Entrepreneurs that speak at a F4S event are giving back to their communities and often to students at their own schools. They've told us that the events they have spoken at have been personal highlights, providing them with a chance to engage and inspire the next generation of business leaders in the UK.

The Aldridge Foundation is an educational charity founded in 2006 by Sir Rod Aldridge OBE after he left Capita, a FTSE-100-listed company, which he founded. The Foundation helps young people to reach their potential, principally by sponsoring entrepreneurial academy schools and colleges in challenging communities.

Where did the idea for the Aldridge Foundation come from?

My life has been shaped by my ability to take the right kind of risks. I wasn't driven by the thought of failure when I started Capita and I wasn't reluctant to think differently. In my view, resilience, teamwork and creativity are the marks of the genuine entrepreneur. These attributes have helped me every day of my working life. It doesn't matter if you want to set up a company, or work with a group of volunteers to improve your street – an entrepreneurial mindset is a major asset. Every young person can benefit from developing this as they grow up.

How does the Aldridge Foundation work?

We set out to challenge conventional thinking and a culture of low expectations. We believe that, with the right support, there are no limits to what young people can achieve. We are essentially a family of schools joined together by regular networking and sharing lessons learned and best practice with each other.

We're accountable to the Department for Education. The Foundation has a small team of experts supporting our schools in educational improvement, capital programme management, governance, marketing, PR and communications, financial and business planning, as well as entrepreneurship.

Why is it so important for children to learn entrepreneurial skills?

An entrepreneurial mindset gives people the life skills to achieve their goals and take control of their lives. To be 'life ready', 'work ready' and independent. To have a state of mind which strives to solve problems rather than accept defeat. In our academies, entrepreneurship provides context for the learning of core subjects and is integrated into all areas of academy life. We focus on the development of entrepreneurial qualities, including passion, determination, risk-taking, problem-solving, teamwork and creativity.

Entrepreneurship feeds into all lessons in our academies, after school clubs, any rewards system and our work with the broader community. Students get to leave with the qualifications, skills and attributes employers are looking for, or those that will help them to succeed in self-employment.

Is the UK education system doing enough to prepare students for the workforce?

A survey carried out this summer by the Princes Trust and HSBC of 600 business leaders found more than 40% said they were experiencing skills gaps within their firms, while more than half are facing difficulties filling vacancies.

So, there is a problem. Local employers should get more involved with schools in their area by providing work experience and make clear what skills they need.

How is the Aldridge Foundation helping to plug the skills gap?

All our young people are encouraged to display the key characteristics of passion, determination, risk-taking, teamwork, problem solving and creativity. Every school has a 'Creates' centre, a space designed to foster social enterprise, create local business and community links and allow new ideas to develop.

In 2015 we'll be opening two university technical colleges, in partnership with local businesses and universities. One will be in Salford in the heart of the new MediacityUK and the other in Newhaven, Sussex, focusing on marine engineering.

Our new Aldridge Centre for Entrepreneurship, opening in East London in 2015, will give young people the skills they need to be self-employed or run their own businesses.

Can you share some notable success stories?

The Foundation has been recognised with several awards, including Academy Sponsor of the Year (British Council for School Environments) and Academy Provider of the Year (EducationInvestor).

The following two examples demonstrate the success we're having. Brighton Aldridge Community Academy has the highest rates of progress by its students of any school in Brighton and is highly placed nationally. Darwen Aldridge Community Academy has been recognised as the seventh most-improved school in the country over the last three years by SSAT. Since opening its sixth form, students have progressed to many leading UK universities, including Oxford.

We have taken great care to ensure the accuracy of this newsletter. However, the newsletter is written in general terms and you are strongly recommended to seek specific advice before taking any action based on the information it contains. No responsibility can be taken for any loss arising from action taken or refrained from on the basis of this publication. © Smith & Williamson Holdings Limited 2014. code 14/1018 exp: 31/03/15

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