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Scouts Announcement - Introduction of an Entrepreneur Badge
27 Jul 2010
The scouts’ announcement on the introduction of an entrepreneur badge will help foster upcoming talent and underlines the need to support the next generation of budding businessmen and women, says Venture Wales business adviser and regional manager for Cardiff, Phil Watkins.
The news that the Scout Association is adding an entrepreneur badge for recognition of business skills to its list of accolades could not come at a better time. Initiatives like these are exactly what is needed to help create the next breed of entrepreneurs necessary to keep the Welsh economy thriving.
As a business adviser to Wales’ up-and-coming businessmen and women, I believe it is right that we do more to motivate children to become business-minded. Anything that encourages young people to consider entrepreneurship as a future career option, potentially inspiring a new host of Welsh Richard Bransons and Deborah Meadens, is to be welcomed.
Scout purists who object to the move away from more traditional badges such as knot tying and showing kindness to animals should remember the scout motto: ‘Be prepared’. We should be preparing our children for the future they are likely to encounter. While traditional badges have their place, only good can come from teaching our children business skills that will undoubtedly be useful as they enter the workforce.
With 20 years’ first-hand experience as a former Cub and Group Scouts Leader for the 1st St. Fagans Scout Group in Cardiff, I think it’s right for the scouts to introduce badges that address modern life. In fact this move should probably be filed under ‘great ideas we should have thought of ages ago’.
Traditional scout values and badges encourage scouts to develop communication, creative thinking and confidence in leadership and an entrepreneur badge will only reinforce these values, focusing on skills that are applicable to most workplaces.
To earn the badge, scouts will have to come up with a business plan, get the business going and then present the results to a Dragon’s Den style panel formed of scout leaders and local business figures. This process alone will get scouts thinking about how business fits into their lives, hopefully addressing the role that businesses play in the local community and the wider economy of Wales.
This experience of what it takes to get a business off the ground will be of extra value to teenagers who will face an uncertain economy and job market when they enter the workforce. Current statistics for young people trying to find employment in the UK are dire. The Prince’s Trust states that over a million young people are not in education, employment or training, while recent government figures show that 35% of those between the age of 16-17 and 17% of those between 18-24 years of age are unemployed. Even graduates are having trouble finding work with more than one in ten students who left university in the summer of 2009 failing to find work after six months, according to figures from the Higher Education Statistics Agency. To avoid creating a ‘lost’ generation it is essential we create opportunities for children to get involved in business activities.
Research also shows that youth entrepreneurs are also more likely to assist with community service projects, something that may prove beneficial in the face of predicted government cuts in these areas.
The Welsh Assembly Government (WAG) has also recognised the need to grow interest in business. On 5 July WAG announced a Youth Enterprise and Entrepreneurship Strategy for Wales (YES) recognising that young people need to be entrepreneurially confident in order to contribute to the Welsh economy and the wider community.
There are a number of issues around how to engage young people in the world of business. As most parents can tell you, the concept that Wales and the wider world is built on successful businesses is entirely alien to children. Why are there so few business-centered elements of the curriculum? This could be introduced as early as primary school, where young children start to understand how the world around them works. How many children are taken to local businesses – to understand and be enthused about the role of manufacturing and commerce in a prosperous Wales? How many children understand the basics of money or tax or starting a business? How many children are exposed to successful business role models?
The introduction of the entrepreneurs badge certainly puts a number of these questions on the agenda and as we ponder how we introduce our children to business, we need to consider how we support entrepreneurs trying to break into the market today.
Current business ventures must be able to thrive in Wales and more needs to be done to support them. Solid infrastructure is of paramount importance. Things like first-rate transport links need to be in place so that products can move seamlessly from one place to the other. Communications technology like faster broadband speeds must be available to help support a growing business, especially those with an online offering. Access to a comprehensive business support service to help companies grow in this difficult economic climate is also essential. Entrepreneurs need to know that they have this support to help them along the way.
Enthusing Britain’s next generation of wealth-creating entrepreneurs should be of paramount importance to current business leaders and to the government but we must not forget about those who are starting or looking after a young business today.
We must continue to support these companies with robust mentoring programmes and with accessible funding so that entrepreneurship becomes something to aspire to and so that the next generation have credible role models to look up to, and eventually to mentor them.
Youth entrepreneurs and budding business leaders need champions. Small businesses play a vital role in the Welsh economy. Let’s not forget this and let’s make sure we support it.