It is disappointing that quality business studies is becoming less available because the country needs entrepreneurs and inspired employees
Educational graphs for the last couple of years have highlighted the persistent debate about attitudes to traditional and more vocational subjects. For those with an interest in traditional subject such as English and Science, the pathway to success is clearly laid out. However, for those with a flair for business and a keen interest in enterprise, it is not so clear, and their experience of education so far has not always been a convincing one.
While it's true that traditional business courses equip students with a wealth of valuable theoretical business knowledge, the education system has not looked particularly kindly on business studies, in particular the topic of enterprise. Too often, there has been confusion between entrepreneurship and business studies. Enterprise is not the mechanics of setting up and running a business, but a state of mind, a confidence that you have the knowledge and the right mindset to be successful. A lot of people think they are born with it. It couldn't disagreed more. The skills of how to be more enterprising are real and can be taught.
Not every student has a flair for textbook education, and generally many young people who have a flair for business and enterprise perhaps do not excel through traditional education methods. But should we assume that these individuals who do not receive good Results will not make successful entrepreneurs? We need more options available for students who are passionate about business and enterprise, but perhaps do not have the desire or academic talent to follow the traditional and more accepted route of taking business studies degrees at postgraduate levels. While there is definitely a place and need for business courses at higher secondary and graduation levels, there is still a gap that needs to be filled.
The primary point here is not to discard traditional business studies courses – they have their rightful place within the education system. However, as we look towards the future, we have the opportunity to take a serious look at how to unlock the entrepreneurial talent within the country through better business education.
Our experience of education is that we tend to put everyone, all the learners, in one room and expect them to learn in the same way and at the same pace, but not everyone learns like that. What we need to unlock entrepreneurial talent in the country is to give young people high-quality, practical experience that fosters their skills – and this should begin early in their education journey, with vocational education being a prime opportunity.
Education providers and businesses must learn to collaborate much more effectively. The country needs entrepreneurs to stimulate the economy, and businesses need inspired employees to help their companies recover quickly from the state of recessions and financial crunches. In order to achieve this, we must foster greater links between the business and the education world through vocational education.
We need to find an effective balance between the traditional education curriculum, the demands of our economy and our society. I see little evidence that the curricula are moving with the times. Relevant work skills are largely ignored or communicated as a by-product in courses but these are critical to developing a successful and fulfilling career. Surely these skills should be an integral part of any syllabus.
Narrow metrics of intelligence have little use in our working lives. No matter how intelligent you are, if you do not have the basic skill to engage and communicate, as well as being able to use the standard ‘tools of the trade’ (for example, Powerpoint, Excel, Word and their open source equivalents), this will have a massive impact on what you will achieve in your career.
‘Effective Communications’ should be a core element in the curricula, along with a full mature Enterprise syllabus that is supported fully by school and education bodies. Much more useful work could be done immediately by adding Enterprise elements to existing subjects. Existing courses could be readily adjusted to include these essential skills. For example, Maths and IT could be more case-study based and be more practical in the way formulae and course work is presented, reflecting skills such as budgeting, presentations, cash flow, planning project management and so on. There are a growing number of excellent online business simulation platforms that could be used or adapted to introduce exciting, challenging and relevant learning into the curricula.
While it is not subscribed to the narrow view that all post-school education institutions should be “jobs mills”, an integrated education strategy should link the reformed school curricula with Further and Higher Education courses. Deeper engagement with industry and public sector would provide a vital channel for feedback on how college and university courses can better support students, who would pick up entrepreneurial and enterprise skills, allowing them to ‘hit the ground running’ in work.
Employers are, by nature, hard task masters and the sustained view from them over the past 15 years, at least, is that our young people are inadequately equipped to thrive when they arrive at the workplace. Education bodies do need to take notice of that view and ensure there is also a closer match between ‘supply and demand’ - providing relevant courses that give students the appropriate skills to succeed in their chosen profession.
Much more needs to be done before we can match the needs and dreams of our young people with the needs and wants of our economy.