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A tribute to Lord Young who passed away on 9 December, aged 90

13 Dec 2022

Lord Young was the epitome of The Careers & Enterprise Company (CEC) and its mission to support young people’s next best step.

Much of CEC’s vision and approach emanates from Lord Young’s Enterprise for All review, commissioned in 2014 during his time as the then Prime Minister’s Enterprise Advisor. Back then I was Lord Young’s Principal Private Secretary and his plus one on his grand tour of the country to meet educators, students, employers and the panoply of organisations involved in supporting young people.

Those encounters crystallised for Lord Young what excellence in careers and enterprise education looked like and how to replicate it across the country. Meeting bright young talent like Bejay Mulenga and hearing about his Supa Tuck enterprise convinced Lord Young that relatability was essential if young people were to be inspired and motivated to excel in their studies and be what they could see. And that careers inspiration should begin at the earliest age, as witnessed in a visit to Herringthorpe Infants in Rotherham where enterprise was embedded in everything they do.

Visiting Barking and Dagenham College and neighbouring Robert Clack school reinforced the power of inclusion and an enriched curriculum, including opportunity for teachers to see how the world of work was changing and to know what was required to help their students in their future lives.

Lord Young extolled the virtue of enterprise, not just as a spur for entrepreneurship but as a mindset that can unlock attributes such as creativity, resilience, problem solving and can-do. And the role for education to capture imagination and enable all pathways and possibilities to stay in reach for all young people. It reminds me of his maxim that: “Young people are more than the sum of their qualifications”. And he marvelled at pioneering organisations that facilitated experiential learning and opportunities for young people inside and outside of the classroom – Young Enterprise, The Prince’s Trust and MyKindaFuture to name a few.  

Those intrepid visits unearthed tremendous goodwill among employers but also disconnect between business and education, which meant efforts dissipated, impact weakened. In 2014, Lord Young asked the government to establish CEC as a national body charged to ‘hardwire the connection between education and the world of work’. He also saw an opportunity to harness the convening power of Enterprise Adviser business volunteers to get schools, colleges and local employers working closer together.

After our time together at N.10 we stayed closely in touch; Lord Young was kind enough to be my mentor. He remained steadfast in his belief that: “For many young people the fourth R is relevance, and we must keep education relevant to their lives to come.”

Paul Lewis is Chief of Strategy and Communications at The Careers & Enterprise Company.