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Sharon Davies, the new CEO of Young Enterprise explains how public grant has enabled them to reach more young people in an impactful way and her look ahead to the future at Young Enterprise. Young Enterprise, CEO, Sharon Davies,

Every young person should be given an equal opportunity to learn the vital skills needed to earn and look after their money, to develop an enterprising mindset and make a valuable contribution to their communities and wider society.

That’s the vision of the organisation I lead, Young Enterprise, a national enterprise and financial education charity working directly with young people, teachers and businesses to help young people build a sustainable future.

Since March 2017, funding from The Careers & Enterprise Company (CEC) has enabled Young Enterprise to work with 230 schools, delivering 500 programmes, supporting over 30,000 young people and engaging over 1,500 business volunteers - developing strong partnerships in communities, including those experiencing significant challenges in unlocking social mobility.

In 2022 Young Enterprise will celebrate our 60th Birthday. Over that time nearly 4.5 million young people have engaged in our programmes. This large pool of alumni are a vital source of knowledge and information, enabling us to review and learn about the long-term impact of our programmes.

We put a premium on such evaluation as fundamental in helping us to keep improving our offer to young people. It is an approach that has helped us respond strongly to CEC’s relentless focus on their provider partners’ ability to demonstrate impact. 

We know from CEC’s State of the Nation report that government investment has been the catalyst for improvement in careers education - not least in disadvantaged areas which are among the highest performers in the country.

No one organisation alone can achieve change on the scale needed to deliver equality of opportunity for a generation of young people. Partnerships based on a shared purpose of helping equip young people to support themselves, their families and their communities achieve so much more are the critical component.

We are proud to be part of a dynamic partnership of providers, educators and industry, collectively helping prepare young people for the ever-changing world of work, raising aspirations and increasing vital employer interactions.  

CEC funding helps us forge relationships with key partners in local communities - Local Enterprise Partnerships, Careers Hub Leads and Enterprise Coordinators. These local partnerships are invaluable in helping us to develop needs-based programmes and services. The pathways they provide into schools also enable us to widen our reach.

CEC’s investment also helps us deliver in Pupil Referral Units and Special Schools, enabling us to work together with business and education providers to help young people overcome barriers such as a lack of personal networks and develop key skills such as increased confidence, problem solving and communication.

In this new decade, we are committed to be even more proactive in fostering a culture of connection and collaboration with like-minded partners - building shared values and working collaboratively to create an even greater impact for the young people we serve.

To ensure our next generation build the vital skills needed for the fast changing world of work, we require government to enable schools to increase their focus on developing the crucial skills young people need to earn and look after their money. 

Clearly academic results play an important part in a young person's future. But good grades alone will not adequately prepare young people for the future world of work. They need specific skills and that necessitates a bold change in the education system - to create a close connection between skills development and the curriculum.

Employers continually tell us they are looking for key employability skills such as communication, teamwork, and the all-important creativity. With the current knowledge-based curriculum, hard-pressed teachers are pressurised into focusing solely on examination performance at the expense of such essential skills.

Looking ahead to the future at Young Enterprise we have three key strategic goals; 1) to increase access to opportunities for young people; 2) to boost inclusion and help companies find talent via diverse routes - not just through academic qualifications - providing young people with more opportunities to compete more equally in recruitment processes; 3) to activate our long-term sustainable impact.  By 2023 Young Enterprise will create one million opportunities to help young people activate their untapped ambition. To do this our movement will mobilise 40,000 teachers, volunteers and alumni across our network.  

Our partnership with CEC plays an important part in helping us to reach those rightly ambitious goals. Young people deserve nothing less. Our investment in them is an investment in our society’s future. They are our future.