Young Enterprise: Levelling-up Lancashire by unleashing the talent of tomorrow
According to Young Enterprise, a national charity dedicated to helping young people access key enterprise, employability, and financial education so they are best prepared for an ever-changing job market, just 48% of people in the North West think there are good opportunities to make progress compared to 74% in the South East. That has to change.
Founded in 1962, the charity has worked with millions of children including the likes of Steph McGovern; Sarah John, the Chief Cashier of the Bank of England, whose signature is on the new twenty pound note; and Tom Blomfield, the founder of Monzo. They base their mantra on the power of learning by doing and so partner with businesses to offer key opportunities for the budding employees of tomorrow.
"We deliver opportunities for young people to develop, learn to work, and manage their money: that's our goal, financial enterprise education," says Sharon Davies, 48, Young Enterprise's CEO. "We've got a vision that every young person has the opportunity to develop those skills to learn to earn and manage their money.
"It's about access to opportunities; we have amazingly talented people who live in Lancashire but the opportunities aren't always available so by having a partnership with business volunteers and schools we can make young people better prepared for the world of work."
On course to work with over 8,000 local students across Lancashire this academic year, Young Enterprise works with schools and universities to offer practical hands-on learning and promote employer engagement, with businesses to foster talent pipelines, and with government to lobby ministers and MPs. Aiming to expand their sphere of influence in the country's most deprived communities, they are also working with 39% of secondary schools in the 30% most deprived areas.
"We get feedback from businesses who say there's a skills-gap, so we need employees who are adaptable and resilient and hungry to be entrepreneurial," explains Sharon, who was working in her local supermarket as a 19-year-old when a youth worker encouraged her to get into the industry. "Our partnerships become a good pipeline for potential employees.
"We also have a number of programmes including the company programme, which is where young people get the chance to set up and run their own enterprise with our support," adds Sharon, who has worked at the charity for 10 years and became CEO six months ago. "One example is Junk Jewellery."
Spawned from their MD's idea of doing a beach-clean in Blackpool and turning the refuse they collected into up-cycled jewellery including pendants, earrings, or key-fobs, Junk Jewellery - through Young Enterprise - was able to lean on the experience and expertise of two volunteer business reps from Future Technology Services and the DWP.
"They've set up a registered company," says Sharon, who lives in Bolton. "One of the volunteers introduced them to SEA LIFE Blackpool and gave them the opportunity to pitch their business idea and they now sell in their shop. It's allowed a young company to develop their profile, learn more about marketing, and get help from a local company."
Having given over 13,000 youngsters the chance to learn from 489 different business volunteers during the 2017/18 academic year, Young Enterprise really is on the front line of 'levelling-up' the North West through projects rolled out in collaboration with the likes of the Careers & Enterprise Company, ICANN, FutureU, and Lancaster University Outreach.
Offering education opportunities plenty of kids could have previously only dreamed of, the charity has business volunteers from Beaverbrooks, James Hall, School Letting Solutions, Future Technology Services Ltd, DWP, HSBC UK, and UCLAN all passing on their knowledge and is always on the look-out for more.
"I'm passionate about providing those opportunities and connecting talent with opportunity and it's fantastic when you see the alumni's confidence, you feel so proud of them," says Sharon. "Lancashire has a fantastic heart so we're really keen to develop more in the North West.
"I'm really excited about our potential to do some really good stuff."