It's Global Entrepreneurship Week and the economic news has been relentlessly dire all week. Youth unemployment has topped one million and the Bank of England has slashed the growth forecast to one per cent.
Would-be entrepreneurs — especially the young people that GEW is aimed at — could well be further encouraged to take steps towards self-employment, not least because other employment options are so limited.
Today’s Guardian newspaper highlights the young people, including graduates, who have been working for free stacking shelves at some of the big supermarkets under threat of losing their Job Seeker’s Allowance. This “free labour” is dressed up as “work experience” and with little prospect of a paid job at the end of it.
Surely this state of affairs must make self-employment a whole heap more attractive to young people seeking work. So how is the Government encouraging and supporting would-be entrepreneurs?
The good news is that inspiration and advice is not in short supply, judging by the number of new initiatives being launched this week. Business Minister Mark Prisk and Business Secretary Vince Cable have been doing the rounds during Global Entrepreneurship Week unveiling new schemes to help entrepreneurs, start-ups and SMEs.
Here’s a round-up of the latest initiatives:
- To support enterprise in schools, the Government is enhancing online resources for teachers at the Enterprise Village and promoting recruitment of 2,500 local enterprise champions through the Inspiring the Future website. This scheme recruits people from all sectors and professions to volunteer in schools and colleges, providing mentoring and work experience.
- The number of Premier League Enterprise Academies will be increased from18 to 26 it was announced this week. The Premier League Enterprise Academy provides 11 to 19-year-olds with advice and enterprise activities, introducing them to business and self-employment.
- Business Link is launching My New Business which provides start up support and guidance for new businesses.
- It is also launching The Growth and Improvement Service offering information, support and services for businesses.
- Last week, the Government announced a series of new measures to help Britain’s small and medium enterprises, including investment through the Regional Growth Fund, support for exporters and the new Finance Fitness campaign.
- This week has seen the launch of the Make it in Great Britain campaign, which aims to transform outdated views of UK manufacturing and dispel the myth that Britain “doesn’t make anything anymore”. Backed by industry champions, the campaign has inspired an exhibition to be held at the Science Museum from 24 July to 9 September 2012. Mark Prisk also announced a plan to recruit 30 young rising stars of manufacturing— “30 under 30” — to inspire young people.
There are some common threads here. Enterprise champions, rising business stars and mentors — presumably volunteering their time — are at the heart of many of these initiatives.
When it comes to inspiring and guiding new entrepreneurs, there is much to be said for learning from people who have been there and done that. But let’s hope that this “free labour” provides the necessary support for the next generation of entrepreneurs.