Commission finds young people’s enterprise suffers from fear of failure


26 Jan 2015

Young people are discouraged from starting a business because it is perceived as risky according to a new report from the Commission for Enterprise and Young People. The Commission, set up by the National Youth Agency with support from A4e, found that parents and teachers encourage young people to find a job with a regular income rather than support them to set up an enterprise.

In fact, the report continues, young people can help allay fears by transitioning into managing a business.  Starting off small, young people can develop their ideas via projects in their community or engaging in online trading alongside day jobs or study, the Commission heard.

With youth unemployment higher than for any other age group, self-employment should be considered a realistic option for many young people and more signposting and specialist support needs to be made available, the Commission concluded.

Chloe Smith MP, chair of the Commission, said, “This commission believes passionately in young people and their prospects. It can be an exciting, rewarding choice to set up your own business, and we want to see more young people do it.

“The changing patterns of today’s economy mean that young people expect different things from their first job – and why does that job have to be working for someone else? Young people are ready to take risks, and the attitudes and skills that come with it are a solid foundation for life.”

Yet young people need help to develop these entrepreneurial characteristics, such as tenacity, resilience, communication skills and risk taking – behaviours which contribute to success in running a business, the report continues.

The Commission believes that youth workers, whose roles often demand these characteristics, are well placed to support young people’s enterprise skills, as well as act as mentors to inspire young people to consider enterprise as a career option.  Commissioners are calling on youth workers to become stronger advocates for enterprise.

Michael Bracey, Director of Children’s Services at Milton Keynes Council who sits on the Commission said; “Enterprise is not only about budgets and cash flow. Youth workers are skilled in helping young people to believe in themselves and as well as technical knowledge, running a business or being self employed demands self confidence and lots of it.”

The Commission heard that for many young people, their interest in running a business was sparked by a desire to support an issue that they felt passionate about.  Their business idea came later.

There was also a correlation between entrepreneurial activity and community action – young people that establish a business are more likely to support volunteering and play an active role in their communities, the Commission found.

Andrew Dutton, A4e Group CEO, said: “Through A4e’s delivery of the Government’s Work Programme and New Enterprise Allowance scheme, we have proudly supported over 1,160 young people who were previously unemployed to start their own business.

“There has never been a more important time to help young people get access to the hands-on mentoring and support that already exists – but often not seen by them – so that they can get help to turn a brilliant idea into a sustainable business.

“Our advisors estimate that 40% of our successfully self-employed customers would have faced substantial barriers to finding a conventional job with an employer. Of course, starting a business is tough – but many young people, particularly those with a health condition and those with a criminal record who are trying to make a fresh start, often benefit from the flexibility that being self-employed can bring.

“We have therefore been proud to be part of the Commission into Young People and Enterprise, helping to plan and establish the Commission and supporting throughout.”

 Read the Commission’s final report.