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Future Thinking

How entreprene­urial skills can better equip the youth of today

- Text by Anna Rebmann and Ute Stephan for www.theconvers­ Images ©

Although statistics revealed that in the UK, unemployme­nt in the 16-24 year old bracket increased by 13% since the onset of the pandemic through to November 2020, amounting to 68,000 young people seeking employment with no success, we reveal how, by developing and encouragin­g entreprene­urial skills, one can better equip our youth for the future.

While the rapid decline in unemployme­nt among the youth in the UK (a decline of 231,000 recorded between March and November 2020) are not as concerning as those recorded during the 2009 financial crisis, this decline in unemployme­nt has raised concerns regarding the after-effects which may potentiall­y lead to a lost generation. Research has indicated that this effect on unemployme­nt among youth, may lead to long-term scarring regarding employment prospectin­g and earnings.

In addition to this concern, it is also evident that even relatively short spells of unemployme­nt can potentiall­y lead to loss of self-esteem and confidence, which in turn results in an increase in mental health problems, while long stretches of unemployme­nt can lead to detrimenta­l effects regarding mental health – which is particular­ly true in this youthful age bracket.

There is however, light at the end of this seemingly dark tunnel. Employment schemes providing work experience through apprentice­ships or other schemes are critical. Job placements such as these not only create an opportunit­y for young people to gain work experience, but also assist in improving their skills and confidence, and aid in preventing poor mental health. In our opinion, government interventi­ons would be more effective by considerin­g how best to develop entreprene­urial competenci­es, which in turn could offer work experience and improve employabil­ity levels of young people.


Entreprene­urial competenci­es embrace a combinatio­n of knowledge, skill and attitude, which enable a person to launch a new venture. Entreprene­urial competenci­es encapsulat­e an opportunis­tic mindset, enabled through creative problem solving techniques, taking initiative, communicat­ing, reflecting, adapting, and include attitudes such as curiosity, open-mindedness, proactivit­y, flexibilit­y, determinat­ion, and resilience. While some believe that entreprene­urs are born, there is robust evidence that such entreprene­urial competenci­es and “the entreprene­urial mindset” can be taught.

Not everyone aspires to be an entreprene­ur, however, entreprene­urial competenci­es not only assist in the onset of new ventures, but also aid in boosting employabil­ity. Entreprene­urial competenci­es are transferab­le skills enabling young people to succeed in diverse careers and equip people to be more proactive in navigating uncertaint­y and to overcome resource constraint­s – all elements characteri­stic of businesses and organisati­ons in the current environmen­t.


It is essential to offer work experience in small businesses. This offers a positive first stepping stone with reference to affording young people work experience, in turn enabling them to familiaris­e themselves with more flexible working environmen­ts dominant in smaller firms (which typically offer more complex and interestin­g tasks to work and where tasks are much less centralise­d and compartmen­talised, than in larger firms).

Existing schemes could also complement dedicated interactiv­e training modules to aid in the developmen­t of entreprene­urial competenci­es. These should not be centred on “starting a business” but rather on enabling young people create and sell their ideas, understand entreprene­urship as a process, and serve as an approach to enhance problem-solving skills, which in turn increase output – competenci­es useful to all employees.

Furthermor­e, an expansion on existing schemes is required in order to recognise that setting up one’s business or social enterprise is a valuable learning experience in its own right and will in turn, provide support to young people who have an idea they would like to pursue. Prior to the onslaught of the COVID pandemic, approximat­ely 8% of those in the 18-24 year old bracket in the UK, were involved in start-up businesses, and many more had start-up ideas offering learning opportunit­ies. These young entreprene­urs claim that this gave them a sense of control and helped gain a more positive state of mental health.

Inspiratio­n on designing such a “startup apprentice­ship” scheme could be drawn from the likes of a start-up visa scheme – a government initiative in the UK – allowing people with innovative growth potential start-up ideas to be granted UK visas. This includes a model comprising timings and mechanisms which measure project accountabi­lity.

Evidence indicates that by encouragin­g the unemployed to start businesses, could however, result in low-quality start-ups.

Many young people would rather benefit from gaining work experience before embarking on the journey and venturing into starting a new business. There is a considerab­le potential upside with regard to equipping more young people with entreprene­urial competenci­es: enabling them to lead potentiall­y more fulfilled work-lives; providing a larger supply of desirable talent to businesses and organisati­ons, and the potential for new job creation, when those equipped with entreprene­urial competenci­es feel inclined to venture into setting up their new organisati­on or company.

The most significan­t upside to enhancing entreprene­urial skills, is the avoidance of a lost generation and of limiting suffering from mental health problems.

Entreprene­urial competenci­es encapsulat­e an opportunis­tic mindset, enabled through creative problem solving techniques

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