How pupils learn 'hire and fire' skills

James Ankobia

TV programmes like The Apprentice have helped make  'enterprise' the new buzzword among young people and provoked debate about whether its principles can be taught in school.

The BBC show is hosted by millionaire businessman Sir Alan Sugar, of Amstrad and Tottenham Football Club fame, who sets a series of arduous tasks for adult competitors keen to win the coveted prize of a job as his assistant. Chancellor of the Exchequer, Gordon Brown has promised  £180m to provide enterprise training in schools.

John Healey, one of Brown's Treasury ministers, said: "The driving forces of the modern economy are innovation, competition, skills and enterprise, if we are to create a culture of enterprise for all, we must start with our schools, across the full range from primary to late secondary and college years."

Healey adds:  " While virtually all young people now do work experience at some stage in their school years, few gain any experience of enterprise and it is those in less affluent areas who are missing out most often". Striding Out Live, the support network company, celebrated its first anniversary during National Enterprise Week recently and invited 60 or so young entrepreneurs to join them and share their experiences.

Founded in 2005 by Heather Wilkinson, the company supports young entrepreneurs by offering mentoring, professional advice and access to a large connections network. Striding Out Live has already helped 500 budding business people get their projects off the ground. Having run various university workshops and offered student work placements, Heather believes that enterprise should be embedded in the school curriculum. She said:  "If not taught in the classrooms then it should be incorporated through extra curricular activity."

Diane Rosewarne, owner of Rosewaters Human Resource Solutions and governor of a secondary school, agreed that enterprise as a discipline had to be added to the curriculum but felt that education was not essential to starting up your own business.

As a human resource mentor with the Prince's Trust, Rosewarne said she encountered people starting businesses who  "were not highly educated but sparked when chasing their dreams".

Helen Lang, creator of tourism consultancy Global Sense, expressed mixed support for the role schools can play in equipping adolescents with business skills. Winner of the Big Leap competition, which coaches young people to make a business plan, Helen said that her bad experience in school drove her to start her own business.

After being told that she would not amount to much she pushed herself harder to prove her teachers wrong. Also involved in university workshops, she said enterprise education would only work if it was interactive and allowed students to take the initiative as well as be analytical.