Working with Young Enterprise Scotland, Indigo was asked to help draft and place an article for Chris van der Kuyl after he led a discussion at a round table event about enterprise and education. The article appeared in The Herald on 7 July 2020.
By Chris van der Kuyl
Now more than ever, the world needs mavericks: the innovators, the inventors, the risk-takers. And while that may seem entirely counter intuitive as we emerge from a pandemic that has made us comply with lockdown rules and fearful of a trip to the supermarket, I believe it is essential that we make these qualities core to our education system.
If the disruption caused by COVID-19 within our schools has given us one advantage it is that we have the opportunity to reset our education priorities. Home schooling and the likelihood of blended learning options in the future have forced a greater adoption of digital platforms and advanced the need for greater digital skills.
Inevitably, this has highlighted the gaps in digital access that need to be addressed urgently, but it has also raised issues around how to engage all students and what skills we choose to nurture and encourage.
I went to a school in Dundee that literally threw opportunities at us and for me the one experience that led to success as an adult was the chance to create my own business as part of the Young Enterprise Scotland (YES) Company Programme. I had a mentor and learned resilience and communication, but fundamentally it took away any mystery around the world of work.
As I set out on my own business career, therefore, any fear of not being able to do something was taken away as I had already done it. I realised that I also had the capability to take strong managed risks, without which nothing would have happened.
This summer, more than 300 Scottish school students passed the first ever YES Company Programme ‘higher’ and for me, these young people provide a blueprint for the way forward. They learn by doing and will take forward an entrepreneurial spirit that will be invaluable to Scotland’s economic recovery.
Moreover, the Company Programme has been shown to have disproportionately strong impacts for the most disadvantaged group of young people, because by demystifying business it demonstrates to these pupils that people in top jobs are not wizards.
As a measure of that success, this month sees the launch of the YES membership of Gather, a global network of JA (Junior Achievement) alumni, who are still driven to share ideas and create products and services to drive profit for good. It offers a means to connect and find new sources of inspiration. It is also a timely reminder that we need to continue to be outward looking and aspirational at a time when working lives are being put under various constraints.
As YES alumni we still have a role to play. This may be through mentoring and coaching. It may well be through supporting teachers and schools find a way to embed greater digital learning into the school curriculum. Or, perhaps, more importantly, it is by ensuring that experiential learning is not lost at a time when having the courage to be innovative and enterprising is fundamental to Scotland’s path through the economic consequences of coronavirus.
Enterprise is a framework to help young people think about and deal with what lies ahead, how we build this into every school day is now both a challenge and for me a priority.
- Chris van der Kuyl is CEO and founder of 4J Studios, an alumni of the Young Enterprise Scotland Company Programme and a former Chairman of the charity.