Young Enterprise – It’s a learning curve

Young EnterpriseFor the last 2 years I have been volunteering as a business adviser for the UK based charity Young Enterprise.

If you are not familiar with Young Enterprise, they work with educational institutions within the UK (primarily schools and college) to help students develop themselves, their commercial and business awareness.

One of their core activities is running a ‘Company Programme’ which essentially gives students the ability to set-up and run a business for a year under the Young Enterprise Charity, with a network of tools and support in place to help them do so.

Most groups are made up of anything from 4-16 (on average) members.

The groups elect different members for different people and operate like a normal business with meetings, product and service creation, marketing, selling and more.

It is a fantastic way for young people to gain essential skills without any real risk and the most successful companies can after the year opt to trade independently.

I personally was a part of this scheme when I was in 6th form and enjoyed it.

Wishing to give something back as a way of thanking Young Enterprise and helping to develop the people of tomorrow I enrolled as a business adviser.

Each group usually has 2 business advisers which are people with real world business experience from any industry.

The advisers are there to assist the company with questions and queries they may have and essentially take the individuals on the journey that is the Young Enterprise programme.

Students can range from 15-20+ in age, with most around 17-19 years old.

So far I have worked with a local school, with year 10 students aged 15.

As a very motivated individual for me the last 2 years have been a real challenge and one where the lessons are only just sinking in and there is no doubt I have developed my skills personally as a result.

My first group I thought were difficult in the fact that lots of stuff was left to the last minute with many of them not doing the work required and letting each other down.  However the second group were worse; but in both cases in the end they did what they needed to do.

In both instances the mix of individuals and their experience were really different as were their approaches to work. Only 1 or 2 had what I would deem as the right approach to the programme.

All I ever wanted is for the kids involved is to get the most out of it and make best use of the experience to try, fail, succeed and learn.

I tried to motivate them, push them, make them realise the importance of certain aspects like deadlines.

This desire for them to grow was my downfall as an adviser.

What I have learnt now is that I need to tone down my passion in achieving the final goal and work at their pace (which is a challenge when I work in a fast paced environment) and be there to support them.

At the age of 15 they are not as developed as the older students but they all have something to learn and if each student comes away with something be it personal satisfaction or having learnt a new skill, then my involvement and the programme has been a success.

Whilst the company programme is a competition with a national finalist being picked at the end of it, even if the company doesn’t actually sell a product, the team members will have learnt a lot in the process of getting there, the winning of the competition is just a bonus as they have won already, by the skills and experiences they have gained.

Thus now at the end of year 2 I can confidently say that next year the whole process should be more enjoyable because I have been on a journey and I have now learnt what it takes to better help them.

If you have a desire to get involved and help the business people of tomorrow then head to http://www.young-enterprise.org.uk/ and get in contact with your local region.

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