13th Plenary Session of the Congress 30 May - 1st June Promoting an entrepreneurial spirit among young people in Europe's regions
Rapporteur: Mehboob Khan, United Kingdom,
Chamber of Regions
Political Group : SOC EXPLANATORY MEMORANDUM
I. Institutional context
III. Some conceptual and theoretical issues
A. Youth transitions
B. Education and the labour market
C. Creators or consumers?
IV. The nature of the challenge
A. Vulnerable young people
B. Preference hierarchies
V. Development models
VI. Enterprise and entrepreneurship
VII. Public policy, youth unemployment and the labour market
VIII. Contexts for development – improving the terrain in preparing for enterprise
A. School – work simulation and enterprise education
B. Community – youth organisations and youth work opportunities
C. Vocational training
D. Labour market
IX. Policy development for the regions – concrete practical proposals
A. Immediately practicable measures
B. Some more difficult policy questions
C. The grid (and its potential)
Entrepreneurship and the regions
Enterprise and disadvantaged young people
Starting from the premise, articulated in its Strategy of 2000, that appropriate, and appropriately remunerated employment is one of the main ways of promoting social cohesion, the Committee on Social Cohesion undertook a study on “Employment and Vulnerable Groups: the role of local and regional authorities” which gave rise, in 2003, to a report and adopted texts identifying eight vulnerable groups. Following presentation of this report and its draft texts, it was decided that work should be continued with regard to one of the groups – young people, including disadvantaged young people – with a particular focus on promotion of entrepreneurship, or enterprise, as a means of increasing their changes of employment in the regions.
In its 1998 report entitled “For an Active Policy of the Regions on Employment and Socio-Economic Development” the Congress had already reviewed some of the practical measures taken by regional authorities to encourage employment. The report concluded that “regional authorities seem particularly active in supporting the creation of new businesses and supporting young entrepreneurs. No region, however, mentions action designed to promote the spirit of enterprise or entrepreneurial culture.”
In 2001 the Committee of Experts on Promoting Access to Employment (CS-EM), a sub-committee of the CDCS, approved a document setting out guidelines on local employment initiatives geared to combating and preventing long-term unemployment. Promotion of entrepreneurship was among the guidelines being focused on.
The existence of a viable entrepreneurial culture in society, described as a culture of risk-taking and shouldering responsibility, had already been identified as a key factor in the economic growth and dynamism of a region and as one of the most promising means of combating youth unemployment in another Congress document on “Promoting regional policies for territorial social cohesion” (CPR/SOC (10) 6).
This document pointed out that strategic action by local and regional authorities was essential and that the Congress should seek to boost entrepreneurship in its own geographical area and especially in countries undergoing economic transition, with few business creation traditions and models. The document stated, among other things, that action should include raising awareness of entrepreneurship among young people.
The significance of a new approach to youth unemployment and youth transition into the workplace is being emphasised by the globalisation of markets, which necessitate competitiveness, efficiency, creativity and entrepreneurial skills. The promotion of entrepreneurship among young people can be seen as a long-term strategy for in innovation and job and wealth creation.
This is a very topical subject. In 2003 the European Union published a Green Paper on “Entrepreneurship in Europe”, followed in 2004 by “Action Plan: the European Agenda for Entrepreneurship” which highlighted as a key action the fostering of entrepreneurial mindsets among young people. This Action plan is comprised of five entrepreneurship action plan strategic areas with 9 key actions (as well as a series of sub-actions) for 2004 -2005. A first progress report on the implementation of phase I has been published, with quite positive findings, and a final progress report will be published in 2006.
In addition the European Commission’s PAXIS network and Eurocities initiated a pilot project to organise the European Day of the Entrepreneur – the third of which will take place in Turku, Finland on 14 June 2006. One of the ideas of this event is to promote entrepreneurship at local but also at international level. National and regional authorities are accordingly invited to organise public awareness campaigns, produce and circulate teaching materials and provide suitable training courses for teachers.
The Council of Europe’s Committee on Social Cohesion feels that the Congress could play an important role in promoting entrepreneurship in its own specific area of influence, starting with the European Union applicant countries, as a major contribution to their cultural, social and economic progress. One of the essential aims of the action proposed is to motivate regional authorities to take full responsibility for growth and social cohesion in their own territories. In areas where young people have no contact with entrepreneurship for lack of entrepreneurial models, such action is a strategic necessity at regional level aimed at explaining the concept of enterprise to young people and promoting the healthy socio-economic development of the markets.
This report1 seeks to examine the position and transitions of young people in Europe’s regions today with regard to the current emphasis being placed on the importance of entrepreneurship as a means of promoting employment and economic growth.
The focus is particularly on those likely to be, or become, more vulnerable in terms of their labour market futures, assessing their 'place' within the enterprise debate, for they are not those who routinely beat a path to the door of bespoke enterprise education and training programmes. The report seeks to identify some practical possibilities which, given political will, some resource allocation and strategic planning at the regional and local level, are deliverable and achievable in the relatively short-term.
The report introduces a range of issues that seek to connect young people – especially unemployed young people and those at risk of unemployment – to the labour market. That relationship has become increasingly strained over the past fifty years on account of demographic change, migration and mobility, new technologies, changes in rates of participation in education, and globalisation. Not that these overarching issues can be addressed here. Rather, the intention is to explore some more grounded questions about vulnerable and marginalised youth, and how they may be supported more effectively in treading more positive pathways to the labour market. Particular attention will be given to the role of the regions in providing that support – both to young people and to the infrastructure around them – and to the possibilities of encouraging a culture of enterprise, or an 'entrepreneurial spirit' amongst young people.
Sven Mørch, the Danish youth sociologist, has captured the essence of being young in (post)modern European societies within a triangular relationship of youth as doing, youth as knowing and youth as being (see Stafseng 2004). As a result, he argues that a modern (post-modern) conception of what he calls 'youth life' needs to ºbe embodied in the following way (see overleaf):
preparation for work
This simple model is useful in that it can be conceptualised and considered at various levels, in theory, policy and practice. At all levels, there are obviously relationships and tensions between the three constituent parts of the model; and in policy and practice, we can readily detect the interactions in terms of the development of 'self', personal aspirations, and academic and vocational learning. The dynamic between these elements informs both youth policy development and practical interventions with young people – they have much to say in terms of our engagement with all young people, and their engagement with us, including those described as 'disengaged' and others at the margins.
For the purposes of this report, the model may be recast as follows:
preparation for work
The model has been so recast because it seems increasingly important, as young people develop, to introduce them to the diversity of prospects and possibilities in the labour market. In other words, there is a need to cultivate in young people multiple potential 'vocational identities' during their 'learning pathways' in adolescence and young adulthood, rather than 'trapping' them in a single vocational route that might well become a rut or cul-de-sac. This process could and should introduce the concept of 'enterprise', or entrepreneurship though there needs to be some caution in pursuing the assumption that a solution to youth unemployment is the promotion of enterprise amongst the young unemployed. There is certainly a counter-argument that enterprise, as entrepreneurship, needs to be promoted in other quarters of the youth population, in order to create jobs that may be accessed by unemployed young people, especially those who are more 'disadvantaged' and 'socially excluded'. For now, however, consider the following observation:
I don't know whether as a teenager I actually really knew what I wanted to be. I knew what I wanted: two point four kids, four-bedroom detached house and two cars on the drive. But as far as a job went, as a teenager, I didn't know. I knew what I was going to do. I knew I was going to do an apprenticeship but I didn't know whether that was what I wanted to be doing. Because I'd had no experience of anything. You know, I might have liked to be a social worker or a solicitor. I just didn't know. I didn't have any knowledge or experience of anything like that. You know, you come out of school, you get offered an apprenticeship and you take it, thinking that's what you want to be. If you can understand what I'm saying there.
(Shaun, in The Milltown Boys Revisited; Williamson 2004)
This is a striking illustration of how circumscribed the vocational identities and horizons of young people may be. Amongst his peer group, Shaun had been relatively bright – in Williamson's study, the only individual from the comprehensive school to secure any educational qualifications, though these were low-level and limited. Shaun did get his apprenticeship and subsequently trained in instrumentation. Through some quirks of fate, he studied for, and gained, a degree in electrical engineering when he was in his 30s, though he still works as 'just' an electrician. But the point he makes, that he had "had no experience of anything" is instructive: the first step in any youth employment strategy is to broaden young people's horizons – and not just in relation to the labour market.
The 'youth policy' framework in Wales is called Extending Entitlement (National Assembly for Wales 2000). This is based on a philosophy that a youth policy analysis should not be on 'problematic' teenagers but on 'sorted out' young adults. How did they become equipped for participation in civil society and the labour market? How did any of us become so? The answer is reasonably straightforward: we had access to a range of experiences and opportunities. These included a decent schooling and the acquisition of formal educational qualifications, and these remain paramount considerations, though the form and content of the curriculum may require attention and revision. But they also included non-formal learning opportunities (through youth work and youth organisations), away-from-home experiences, engagement with sport and music, meaningful careers advice and guidance, and increasingly – more recently – international contact and access to new information technologies.
Many young people become engaged with such possibilities through the support and encouragement of their families, committed schools and integrated communities; our more 'vulnerable' young people, however, are likely to need more robust assistance from public services to gain access to them. Otherwise, it is no wonder that their 'horizons for action' are limited and, far from curiosity about development and difference, they often manifest xenophobia, homophobia and localism. Without such opportunity and experience, it should not be a surprise that they struggle to secure the credentials for the labour market, and are cynical about participation in civil society. Sadly, for themselves and for those around them, they often end up with what Williamson has referred to as a 'tangle of pathologies' (see Istance et al 1994): mental ill-health, substance misuse, homelessness and criminality. This advocacy for extending 'entitlement' through broadening experience may at first appear to be a far cry from 'enterprise' and 'entrepreneurship', but it is the starting point. The distance may in fact be not so far: proponents of some versions of 'enterprise education' maintain that it can only be delivered effectively through active or experiential learning – 'learning-by-doing'. This is premised upon a four-stage process, which has been depicted in many different ways, but is usually attributed to Kolb's cycle of concrete experience, observations and reflections, more abstract conceptualisation and generalisation, and then testing the implications of this learning in new situations (Kolb 1983). Or, put more simply, 'do, review, learn, apply' (Dennison and Kirk 1990). It is a process that draws firmly on Carl Rogers famous dictum, "I know I cannot teach anyone anything, I can only provide an environment in which they can learn" (Brandes and Ginnis 1986). Moreover, it is such a pedagogical position – celebrated most forcefully in the realms of non-formal education, but certainly not exclusive to it – which is proclaimed to best engender 'soft' or 'transversal' skills such as initiative, communication, problem-solving and decision-making. And these are, after all, argued to be the very essence of entrepreneurial characteristics and qualities (European Commission 2005).
III. Some conceptual and theoretical issues
A. Youth transitions
There is now a considerable body of research evidence pointing to the ways in which 'youth transitions' have been transformed over the past generation (see, for example, Furlong and Cartmel 1997). Though the point may still be contested, it is generally argued that historically the transition from school to work prepared the ground for further transitions in housing and family life. They were more or less guaranteed and essentially linear in form. The metaphor of 'train journeys' has often been invoked: young people from different class (and gender) backgrounds collectively embarked on train journeys to their particular shared occupational destination – whether this was in the professions or in manual labour. There were few possibilities of choices, disembarkation or changing track. That is simply what one did, with few exceptions. The 'metaphor' is pursued through the reference to 'car journeys' in more recent times. The process of 'individualisation' has led to more solitary journeys. These have both strengths and weaknesses. There is more possibility of choosing one's own route, pace of travel and sense of direction, but there is also more chance of stalling, breaking down, and skidding off the road or becoming stranded. The metaphor points to greater choice and opportunity, but also greater risk and vulnerability. To press the metaphor further, successful journeys are likely to be contingent on well-maintained vehicles, good roads, reliable maps and the capacity of the navigator to read them. Conversely, vulnerability will arise if the vehicles and roads are poor, and maps are inaccurate or non-existent, or – if they do exist – the drivers cannot read them.
It is thus a complex picture, with numerous factors at play. Youth transitions are now multiple, extended and reversible. Young people may leave home and form families without employment, or may stay at home long after settling into the labour market. If work is lost or independent living breaks down, young people may return home. In short, the certainties and stabilities of the past have become less. And though the European Union White Paper on youth (European Commission 2001) calls for greater autonomy for young people, youth research tends to indicate the need for more support. Indeed, it has been argued that young people need to be supported in developing a capacity for 'life management' (Helve and Bynner 1996), so that they are not 'tossed around by uncontrollable forces' (Saarikowski 1996), for in this context of prolonged transitions, there are many more decisions to be taken and each can open or close doors further down the road. Thus advice, guidance and experience, and a sense of possibility are all key elements in assisting young people with the journeys that, increasingly, they have to take themselves.
B. Education and the labour market
As with transitions more generally, the old certainties and connections between education (cf schooling) and employment have diminished, though the broad picture remains that more qualifications provide greater choice and more 'guarantees' within the labour market. That is very different from suggesting that there are labour market destinations commensurate with the level of qualifications achieved. Indeed, this is less and less so. Moreover, there are questions about the nature of education required as preparation for working life and, of course, for life more generally in an unpredictable world. With regard to the future of education the questions raised are; 'compliance or initiative?'. It appears that the challenge for education is to enable young people to 'read' situations in order to judge whether compliance or initiative was required. There are many different social contexts and labour markets; the 'wrong' judgement and subsequent behaviour, either way, is likely to produce disadvantage for the individual concerned.
We are now five years into the EU's Lisbon strategy, seeking to produce the most advanced 'knowledge-based' economy in the world. That aspiration calls for extended, more technological education and learning. But it also calls for changes within educational practice more generally, fomenting 'self-directed' learners. Hence the increasing interest in 'non-formal' learning and experiential education – promoting initiative and a capacity to address different challenges as they arise. Yet there is also the labour market of what have sometimes been labelled 'McJobs', in which cloned behaviour is required and blind obedience expected. Such tensions and contradictions produce dilemmas about the 'learner identities' (Ball et al 2000) to be cultivated and encouraged, which inevitably present difficulties for both educators and young people themselves. The idea of both 'lifelong' and 'lifewide' learning is an attractive one, but paradoxically and at risk of being accused of premature determinism, may end up being a disservice to more marginalised and vulnerable young people for whom a position in the 'lower' echelons of the labour market is the most probable destination. Indeed, it raises important questions about the desire to instil 'enterprise identities' in such young people (a point that will be elaborated upon below): is it setting them up to fail and creating a context for 'blaming the victim', or is it authentically broadening their possibilities?
C. Creators or consumers?
The challenge for education and learning is, as noted above, a broad and complex one. There is, however, a powerful case – from a host of theoretical positions – for encouraging and supporting young people to be actors in, and architects, of their own lives. From the radical left (enshrined in the writing of Paolo Freire – see, for example, Freire 1972) to the radical right (seeking to 'roll back the state' in favour of autonomous self-determination), there has been advocacy of greater 'participation' and involvement in decision-making by young people: young people as producers and creators, not passive consumers. This advocacy rests on a spectrum from the education to the business world. In non-formal education, Mark Smith wrote a short but seminal pamphlet on the humble subject of an ice-skating trip (Smith 1982). He argued that, where possible, young people should create such experiences for themselves, not simply sign up and go along. That was, in his view, the essence of what he called at the time 'social education'. Smith was by no means the first to advance such a proposition, but the momentum around 'experiential learning' has accelerated since then and has been applied forcefully to enterprise education and learning for entrepreneurship, in which dealing with pitfalls and problems has to be harnessed to enjoying success and achievement.
IV. The nature of the challenge
A. Vulnerable young people
It is fairly easy to make sweeping comments about 'vulnerable' young people. It is also always possible to find some crude proxy for identifying them: notably those who have dropped out of, or been in one way or another, excluded from systems of education, training or employment. Yet not all such young people may necessarily be 'vulnerable'; indeed, some display qualities of resilience and sometimes even entrepreneurship, albeit often on the wrong side of the tracks. As one young person once observed, he had already established an 'alternative way of living' – through a measured approach to income generation by means of a variety of unlawful and unofficial activities. That is, in fact, how many of the 'Milltown Boys' have lived throughout their adult lives, and while some of those have been chaotic and opportunistic, others have been calculating and organised in their economic enterprise. They may still, of course, have been 'vulnerable', notably through an absence of formal educational qualifications and criminal records, but also through the collapse of the labour market pathways for which they thought they had been destined.
Since the Blair government in the United Kingdom came to power, there has been a major policy commitment to 'social inclusion', and in particular in relation to a 'welfare to work' agenda. Amongst the many initiatives that have been put in place has been the New Deal for Young People (NDYP) aged 18-24. It is not within the remit of this report to outline the rationale for, and structure of that programme, but it is instructive to comment on a subsequent analysis of its relevance and impact on the 'most disadvantaged'. That paper (Adebowale 1998) sought to unravel a profile of this group – amongst a population who were clearly generally vulnerable in the labour market – and to consider how the NDYP might work better for them. It was suggested that these vulnerable young people fell into four, albeit often cross-cutting, categories:
· Past experiences
· Current circumstances
Clearly, some young people are damaged and troubled by their personal and social backgrounds, which impedes their current learning and development. They may need additional support to address, and thereby redress, that legacy before they can move forward with confidence and competence. Mentoring and 'buddy' systems are often considered to be useful mechanisms to achieve this end. Overlapping with such past predicaments are young people facing current difficulties, on account of a lack of family support, or wider issues. Such barriers need attention and need to be overcome before one can start to explore the making of pathways and progress in education or the labour market. More stubborn obstacles lie in the attitudes of some young people, who remain unpersuaded of the relevance and meaning of (human and/or financial) support that may be offered to them. And finally, there are young people with a host of often undiagnosed, and unaddressed, health issues, ranging from learning difficulties (cf dyslexia) and illiteracy to substance misuse. Both independently, and often in combination, these four characteristics present severe impediments to such young people engaging in, and sustaining a commitment to, learning and work – let alone the possibility of self-employment.
More optimistically, however, there is plenty of evidence that the vast majority of young people have modest, and conventional, aspirations. Very few choose to be outside of mainstream pathways towards adult independence; their 'vulnerability' consigns them to that position – sometimes through no fault of their own, sometimes through their own behaviour – but most would prefer not to be there. It is, nonetheless, important to recognise considerable differentiation within this group, for failure to do so renders responses inappropriate and often counter-productive. My own typology, advanced during the deliberations of the House of Commons Education Committee on 'disaffected children' (Education Committee 1998) is as follows:
· The 'essentially confused'
· The 'temporarily sidetracked'
· The 'deeply alienated' – (a) purposeless and (b) purposeful
By far the majority of those who are outside of the mainstream routes to adulthood and the labour market are those who might be depicted as the 'essentially confused'. The have lost their way, or been lost along the way. Though they may be 'disengaged' (a neutral description of their distance from the mainstream), they are not necessarily 'disaffected' (an evaluative suggestion of their attitude): with appropriate contact and support, they may be fairly readily 're-engaged', though what counts as 'appropriate contact and support' demands careful consideration. The 'temporarily sidetracked' are, likewise, not fundamentally switched off from pathways of learning and employment, but they have, subjectively, more significant priorities in their lives that need to be attended to first. These may well be 'private troubles' rather than 'public issues' (Wright Mills 1970), such as caring for a relative. They may also be 'public issues', such as homelessness or mental health problems. Either way, such matters require resolution before 're-engagement' can be effected. The more intractable group, who are more legitimately described as 'disaffected', are the 'deeply alienated' – those who see no future or benefit in re-engaging with the mainstream. They divide into the 'purposeless', whose time is often spent in alcohol or substance misuse, and the 'purposeful', whose time is spent on alternative strategies for living – using illegitimate means to pursue legitimate goals (Cloward and Ohlin 1960). It is often suggested that some 20% of young people (certainly in the UK) may be 'disengaged' from work, training and education; if this is the case, my contention would be that well over half of these fall into the first two categories, and only a minority in the last.
B. Preference hierarchies
Notwithstanding the typology suggested above, the challenge of 're-engagement' and preventing 'disengagement' lies in the credibility of the different options available to young people as they approach the end of compulsory education and face pressures and options in training and employment. The preferred hierarchy across much of Europe is that young people remain in education and improve their qualifications. Next, where increasing parity with the first is often advocated, is the acquisition of vocational credentials through participation in college-based and labour market training programmes. A poor third is early entry into the world of work where there is no training attached; increasingly, this means the service economy. Below this lie undesirable options: work in the hidden economy, and illegal activity. Yet, from the point of view of more 'disadvantaged' young people, this hierarchy is thrown into reverse, especially if financial imperatives are paramount. The burgeoning drugs culture is an exemplary case in point; though it is never a 'solution' in the long-term, it holds the imminent promise of a level of financial return that cannot be matched by any of the other possibilities. Nevertheless, it is a form of entrepreneurship that cannot be dismissed, and which is mirrored by a range of other opportunities in the illegal and informal economies. Furthermore, these are arguments that are not exclusive to urban life; in rural areas, the capacity to 'turn one's hand' to a variety of seasonal opportunities (unskilled factory work, farming, forestry, tourism) may appear to be the best platform for more 'disadvantaged' young people to make a living.
Public policy concerned with youth unemployment must, then, take account of these realities if it is to harbour hopes of connecting more disadvantaged young people to more legitimate and mainstream pathways of employment and enterprise.
V. Development models
Most 'youth policy' is concerned with helping young people to 'become adult'. Sweden is interesting because it is equally concerned with helping young people to 'be young'. To this end, it invests heavily in leisure provision for young people, especially around music, which may appear to satisfy an appetite for self-indulgence. However, the way in which that leisure is organised yields broader dividends, for it supports young people in acquiring a host of what are referred to as 'soft', 'transversal' or 'generic' skills: teamwork, decision making, problem solving, communication and so on. Critically, it allows for contact with the majority of young people, through responding to their interests, but it also ensures a first step on a ladder of learning and development outside of the formal schooling system. Of course, young people cannot play Fender Stratocasters for ever, and need encouragement in making the next steps, but that kind of personal development through youth work is important in terms of relationships, motivation and belief. It is one that has proved successful in the practice of youth organisations in the UK concerned with more 'disadvantaged' young people (cf Fairbridge; The Prince's Trust).
There are, of course, numerous models concerned with more direct preparation of young people for the labour market. It is generally argued that young people are not sufficiently familiar with the demands and expectations of the 'world of work' and need familiarisation, orientation and socialisation – though some have asserted that young people, especially more disadvantaged young people are only too familiar with its demanding and exploitative character, as a result of the part-time work they have undertaken from an early age (see Finn 1987). Most commonplace in terms of public initiatives are vocational training programmes designed to equip young people with specific (increasingly accredited) occupational skills. These have, however, often been discredited for their lack of credible destinations and lack of credibility with employers. More versatile measures have also been introduced. Prior to leaving school, many young people may have had been involved in work experience placements, though once more their quality (and therefore their credibility) has varied considerably. In school, as well as in vocational training, there have also been initiatives concerned with mentoring and guidance – providing both orientation and support towards relevant and appropriate ('matched') occupational opportunities. In order to broaden aspirations and to provide young people with a 'flavour' of possible employment destinations, measures such as work shadowing and taster sessions have been established. There has also been work simulation and social and life skills training to prepare young people for the world of work. Enterprise and entrepreneurship has largely been conspicuous only by its absence, though at times it has been addressed as one potential or prospective pathway into the labour market (see below).
Such a menu of provision is theoretically rich in its diversity and its capacity to be tailored to different individual needs. However the risk it carries, especially for the more disadvantaged, is repetition. The 'revolving door' syndrome is one that has been widely criticised in relation to labour market preparation programmes: those young people least equipped and motivated for the 'real' labour market find themselves going round the course time and again. This may be considered necessary for consolidation but it tends to be counter-productive, contributing to cynicism and de-motivation amongst those it is primarily designed to help.
One model of practice that appears to have avoided such repetition – and may be worthy of replication, and certainly of consideration – is the Integrated Activity Programme which operates in some parts of Australia. It was established in the mid-1990s when it became clear that a polarisation in the post-compulsory education life chances of young people was becoming more entrenched. More able young people were accessing both educational and (largely part-time) employment opportunities, leaving less able young people, especially those from Aboriginal communities, completely marginalised. The IAP sought to produce and provide a long-term integrated programme that would be developmental and credible, and would avoid some of the pitfalls of segmented and often repetitive provision. It operated over a five-year time frame and, critically, included 'work experience' placements with local employers who had temporary vacancies to plug. Though vulnerable to allegations of providing 'cheap labour' in so doing, the programme was commended by young people themselves, for each working opportunity consolidated their real work experience before they returned to the education and skills training programme. Local employers valued the programme because it ensured the immediate filling of vacancies; and a significant by-product was that it broke down negative stereotypes held by many employers of certain sections of the labour force, notably disadvantaged young people. Indeed, the programme was successful in placing most of its graduates in real jobs. Thus a virtuous cycle, rather than a vicious circle, was effected: the programme was credible both with its target clientele and with the local labour market on which it depended for cementing credibility with the young people it was seeking to help. Though allegedly expensive (provision was by private training organisations, underwritten by the state), it was viewed as cost-effective when evaluated against saving in welfare benefits and the additional contribution it made to productivity and the economy. Indeed, economists assessed its ultimate real cost to the public purse as nil (reported to 'Jobs for Young Australians' conference, Adelaide, 1995).
The Australian case study presents a powerful argument for combined and incremental provision – one which accommodates, developmentally, both education and training initiatives for the more disadvantaged. Such a model might clearly also address the issues and possibilities around enterprise and entrepreneurship.
VI. Enterprise and entrepreneurship
Over the years there has been protracted debate about the idea and concept of 'enterprise'. For educators at some distance from the labour market, it has often been viewed as 'initiative'; for those attached to the labour market (directly or through public services), it has been more closely aligned to 'entrepreneurship' and self-employment. The two are, of course, not mutually exclusive; indeed, 'initiative' is clearly one pre-requisite for 'entrepreneurship', though it may also lead to many other destinations.
During the 1980s, following the collapse of the youth labour market in the 1970s and the more general decline of public and private sector large-scale employment, there was increasing political interest in, and commitment to, promoting 'enterprise'. In Wales, there was a range of public measures to support, for example, 'phoenix co-operatives' (small-scale business emerging from contexts of redundancy as a result of major industrial closure) and 'community enterprise' (not for profit ventures of social value). They met with limited success. By the mid-1980s, the UK government came to hold the view that 'enterprise' had to be cultivated through education. To this end, it established a programme for 'enterprise education' which was intended to be embedded within every secondary school within two years (see Jamieson et al 1988a, 1988b).
Notwithstanding the complexity of 'rolling out' a new initiative in schools with speed, especially when the driver was not the education ministry but the ministry responsible for trade and industry, there are two issues arising from the programme of particular relevance to this report.
First, in order to overcome some resistance by teachers to the idea that education was for enterprise or 'entrepreneurship', the programme was conceived more flexibly and creatively in terms of education for, through and about enterprise. In some quarters of education, there was in fact some tradition of teaching young people about the world of work, but now there was also a possibility – always sought by more radical teachers – to engage in experiential learning: using 'enterprise' activity as a basis for active learning. Thus 'enterprise education' took very different forms in different schools, in terms of its curriculum location (business studies, social studies), its structure (from one 'lesson' a week to a block activity during curriculum shutdown), and the messages it sought to convey, or elicit from its participants. It was certainly not always intended to promote the importance and benefits of 'entrepreneurship', whatever the rationale of the government for its introduction (see Jamieson et al 1988b). [Even when the focus is firmly on 'entrepreneurship', a "panorama of methodologies" means that not all facets of desired learning are always going to be achieved – see European Commission 2004, p.16.]
Second, a critical element of all this 'enterprise education' was the engagement by small groups of young people in an 'authentic' business experience. But it was often far from authentic, in terms of the formation and composition of the group, the quality of the product or service decided upon, the profits that were made, and the time-scale available. This is not the place to elaborate on these, and other, weaknesses of the programme – the point here is to suggest that, probably because of the pressures placed on schools to be seen to be doing something, the 'mini-enterprise' experience invariably produced distorted learning about entrepreneurship, even if it supported active learning outcomes in other ways. However, by way of example, young people often treated it as a laugh, were flippant about being 'managed' by one of their contemporaries, sold shoddy goods to protected markets (sympathetic parents and teachers), and made extortionate profits, for they had no infrastructure costs.
Within schools, then, while there is legitimacy in pursuing education for, through and about enterprise, the idea of encouraging a simulated 'enterprise' experience has to be approached with care. It is almost inevitable that young people will experiment with 'easy-to-achieve', undercapitalised 'business' ideas (cuddly toys were everywhere!); this may, of course, be par for the course in real business development amongst more disadvantaged young people (see below). It is not, however, likely to pave the way for cutting-edge entrepreneurship; in the UK, that remained the domain of a much longer-established extra-curricular programme for much more educated young people completing the end of their post-compulsory schooling – Young Enterprise.
There is remarkably little written on 'real' enterprise undertaken by young people. The most notable is a study by Macdonald and Coffield (1991) where youth entrepreneurship was depicted as 'running, plodding and falling'. The maintenance of a 'toehold' in the labour market was largely possible only through some form of public subsidy. Of course, like the simulated activity in schools, the majority of business ideas produced by young people are likely to be labour-intensive and in already saturated segments of the labour market. This is not to say they will always be unsuccessful. Indeed, one of the more successful 'graduates' of a youth enterprise centre in south Wales has continued to make a living caring for other people's pets: her income is modest but reasonable in the context of local earnings, and her mother does her books! Other 'graduates' of the centre who have 'survived' for some years include a watercolour artist and two young people who make bespoke waistcoats from recycled donated clothing.
Another successful business that has stood the test of time has been 'Instant Muscle'. Though this is today a large company taking on a significant number of employees, its origins lay in the capacity of a small group of young people willing to 'turn their hand' to a range of practical jobs required by local people (gardening, general maintenance, painting, window cleaning). This idea was emulated in the support of a young people's co-operative in the early 1980s (see Williamson 1986). The five individuals involved were the residual participants in 'motivation courses' for unemployed young people run by a local community project. They had no qualifications or experience but were certainly willing to 'turn their hand'. Unfortunately, like similar young people in similar contexts, they only wanted to deliver their service (or make their product). They did not understand, or even want to understand, the need for record-keeping, maintaining accounts or sustaining the commitment of their 'workforce': what might be called the business and interpersonal aspects of their enterprise. As a result, after a couple of years, the business failed. Similar, two young men at the youth enterprise centre mentioned above, both very talented artists, simply wanted to produce their pictures. They had no interest in marketing and had no concept of possibly pricing their product differentially for different markets.
Such issues are, of course, not exclusive to young people. In rural mid-Wales, there is a significant population of people who have sought to 'escape' from the urban rat race. They have set up a host of small businesses – making jams, woollen clothing, wooden toys, traditional artefacts – but are completely disinterested in taking them to markets where they might command the best price. Yet they need to sell their products. To that end, part of a large old café – that no longer attracted the custom it once did – was rented in order to sell such products to the local tourist trade. Each producer taking part staffed the 'shop' on just one day a month, and sold the goods on behalf of all the others.
This idea informed a strategy for a youth project that supported young people's production of music, art and poetry. The project diversified into supporting publication and promotion – through books, portfolios and tapes/CDs – in return for a proportion of the proceeds. The young people concerned were happy with the 'deal': they could get on with their activities, they made some money through it, and they knew that the resources they contributed would be ploughed back into supporting the initiative.
These are just some examples both of creative thinking around supporting youth enterprise and of the difficulties that are likely to be encountered. One of the more successful programmes in the UK for supporting and sustaining youth enterprise amongst the 'hardest to reach' has been through The Prince's Trust. Though there is a considerable attrition and failure rate, it appears to be no worse than amongst business start-ups more generally, and this is in relation to young people who apparently have few skills and few prospects. The model adopted is a predictable one but, perhaps critically, it is an assured one, though with flexibility in its application. Young people have access to business guidance and mentoring, starting with the production of their business plan and continuing through into the early years of operation. They can access finance by way of loans from the Trust for investment in the business. Critically, the business advice and support provided is dispensed by individuals who, though they may come from a very different world of business, are alert and 'tuned in' to the needs, issues and aspirations of the young people concerned. This is, indeed, of great significance, for business mentors too often 'translate' their clients' situations into their own mind-set, failing to grasp that young people may be working to a very different agenda. A fixed sequence of appointments, for example, may be less valuable than a more flexible arrangement.
There is a debate that young people, precisely because they are young people, are ill-equipped to venture into entrepreneurship and self-employment. There are, of course, celebrated exceptions to this contention (cf Richard Branson, who started his Virgin empire as a teenager from a phone box!), but the argument flows from the idea that young people simply have insufficient life experience and resilience to cope with the ebbs and flows, and knock-backs, of autonomous business.
An alternative position is that one cannot instil a spirit of enterprise in young people: they either have it, or they don't, though those who have it may be supported in refining it and assisted in avoiding the pitfalls. It could, however, be argued that succumbing to, or riding over, the pitfalls is also just an integral component of the 'entrepreneurial spirit'. One 16-year old – today a multi-millionaire – seized every opportunity to make money; curiously, his surname was Cash! He worked extremely hard, all hours of the day (and night), first with some cousins, later on his own. But as his business (or, more accurately, businesses – for he had had three by the time he was 21) expanded and the income flowed in, he lost interest and became more hedonistic, spending freely and living wildly. Each time the business collapsed, but this did not deter him: he was confident enough to start again. He had absolutely no enterprise education or business support, but from a very early age he had displayed entrepreneurial characteristics and taken the initiative whenever opportunities arose.
Indeed, there is a vein of such character in many, though certainly by no means all, more disadvantaged young people. They are adept at 'ducking and diving' and making money through creating such possibilities or when such possibilities present themselves. The problematic is converting such 'enterprise' into more legitimate and sustainable activity. This begs the question of how to address what Williamson once called the 'fourth side of the triangle'. The triangle of the foundations for 'enterprise' is typically understood in terms of individual circumstances (the catalyst for considering enterprise – sometimes unemployment), personal characteristics (attributes such as motivation and commitment), and prospective business competence (reflected in an idea/plan). But, especially for young people, who are unlikely to be familiar with any form of financial planning, the usually unaddressed issue is the ebb and flow of resources and the emotional celebration or despondency that accompanies it. The catalyst for the final demise of the young people's co-operative mentioned above was the unexpected receipt of a considerable amount of income – which was promptly spent, leaving the group unable to cover subsequent costs. The two artists, also mentioned above, became dispirited because no-one seemed to want to buy their paintings (no-one wanted to tell them that they were at the right price, on subjects of interest – dead rock stars such as Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and Bob Marley – but in the wrong place). Part of the challenge in cultivating, and cementing, an entrepreneurial spirit might be to test the response and resilience of prospective entrepreneurs to simulated moments of elation and despair.
VII. Public policy, youth unemployment and the labour market
No end of bright ideas permeate concerns about tackling youth unemployment – from improving the skills of the young unemployed to providing subsidies to prospective employers. Few seem to have made much difference. By the time deadweight, substitution and displacement are taken into account, significant public energy and investment has often made only a marginal difference. Youth employment programmes have tended to stand or fall in relation to the general performance of the economy: young people benefit more quickly from economic growth and suffer more rapidly from economic recession. Even demographic change (shrinkage) does not appear to influence employers to cast their net more widely: once their pool of desirable young recruits is exhausted, they turn their attention to other groups of the unemployed, such as women returnees to the labour market and redundant over-50s. Young people who have historically been disadvantaged in the labour market – those from ethnic minorities, those with disabilities, those with no qualifications, those with criminal records – remain disadvantaged, even during an upswing in the economy.
On the supply side, it is these very young people, more than most, who 'just want a job'. They do not want college courses, training programmes or alternative pathways to an income (such as entrepreneurship). Macdonald and Coffield (1991) report that even those who were ticking along in self-employment ('plodding') – and even many of those who were doing quite well ('running') – snapped up an employee status if they were able to find it. The New Deal for Young People, which has tried to bridge the gap between the characteristics of unemployed young adults and skill shortages/growth sectors in local economies, found that those most interested in the Further Education and Training Option were those who already had some level of qualification. Conversely, those with the lowest level, or no qualifications, were primarily interested in the Employer Option, and were dismissive of alternatives such as the Voluntary Sector Option or the Environmental Task Force. This is, therefore, an immensely challenging circle to square.
Rather as it is difficult to persuade young people of the value of volunteering (and this does not mean occupational placements in NGOs or the 'voluntary sector'), so it is difficult to persuade young people of the potential value of gaining 'work experience' through participation in sectors (both private and public) which do not 'fit' with what Mørch would refer to as 'vocational identities'. Yet both can be important pathways to developing confidence and competence for work and enterprise. Many years ago there was an attempt to persuade a rather 'hard' young man to help out with a theatre in education group. Initially, he did not wish to be associated with writers and actors (work, for him, was manual labour – he conformed absolutely to Willis' (1978) depiction of 'lads' whose cultural priorities were manualism, macho and anti-mentalism). However, he was finally persuaded that there was a place for him shifting stage sets and props; this produced an acceptable self-image (it was manual work) but, over time, he displayed growing curiosity in the more creative side of the organisation, as had been hoped.
Thus it is possible to connect these kinds of young people to broader occupational horizons, but it is a challenging and delicate task and, arguably, dependent on at least three fundamental pre-requisites:
· 'benevolent' employers
· local flexibility and 'individualisation'
· sensitive support
Benevolent employers are not necessarily 'soft' touches, but they extend an understanding of young people beyond the immediate imperatives of their occupational position and duties. The early youth training programmes in the UK (at the end of the 1970s), especially those directed towards more disadvantaged young people, could be crudely classified into those with a 'social work' orientation and those with a 'military/industrial' orientation. The former let almost anything pass on account of the past or present difficulties in young people's personal lives. The latter subscribed to, and enforced, a rigid approach to work discipline, epitomised by the remark made by one supervisor: "let's face it, mate, life's a rat race, so you've got to learn [sic] 'em to be rats". Neither served the labour market prospects of these young people particularly well. And neither recognised that the vast majority of young people make 'trade-offs' in the labour market, often according to criteria that remains hidden from, and is certainly not taken into account by, formal, official measures of 'good' and 'bad' schemes, or 'success' and 'failure'. There was one young man who, from an official point of view, was subjected to six months of abject exploitation on a training scheme. Yet he did not see it in that way, for he got the job he wanted at the end of his 'training' period (and another young person was taken on to do the exploitative work he had previously done). Conversely, there was also the young woman who was set on caring work, but who knew there was no likely job destination in that sector, on account of her age and qualifications (Williamson 1981). In political circles at the time, there was puzzlement that some 'poor' youth training opportunities appeared to very popular with young people. From the 'top-down', they were poor, delivering little useful training and producing few labour market destinations. From the 'bottom-up', however, they were attractive because they were, for example, close to home, your friends were there, and you often went home early. This is not making a judgement; it is simply noting that one has to get into the 'mind-set' of different young people to determine what is important to them and what kinds of 'trade-offs' they are willing to accept. Hence the case against central prescription and the case for local flexibility and individualised plans for support and development – which may, or may not include the possibilities of self-employment.
Within such individualised considerations, there will always be some young people who are stubbornly opposed to participating in anything but 'real work'. And, as noted above, they are often disproportionately those who are routinely most excluded from the labour market – those with few or no qualifications, and often with criminal records and other problems. Surveys of employers often convey a deep reluctance, to the point of blanket refusal, to take on such young people, for quite understandable reasons. Yet in any local labour market, there are always employers willing to do so, not so much through altruism but for more concealed personal reasons (perhaps their own wayward past, or difficulties they have experienced through their own children). One very successful entrepreneur, the boss of a packaging company, donated literally thousands of cardboard boxes to a charitable computer recycling initiative, and offered work experience to some of the young people involved in other parts of the charity's work. At first he said this was his public responsibility, but when pressed further, admitted that he had had a tough childhood and one of his sons had 'gone off the rails' until somebody helped him out. Now he was in a position to 'return the favour'. The challenge here is twofold: how to find these kinds of people, and how to support them in the risk they are taking. Even 'altruistic' employers are unlikely to want to jeopardise their 'bottom line'.
This is where sensitive 'professional' support becomes important. Vulnerable and disadvantaged young people faced with any new departure in their lives, including in the labour market and enterprise, can readily give up when the first difficult hurdle is encountered (which may be something as 'basic' as harsh words from a supervisor). Access to a 'mentor', 'critical friend', 'personal adviser', 'social pedagogue', 'youth worker' (they are called many different things; the latest in the UK is 'lead professional' and 'trusted adult'), whose role is to work alongside and on behalf of the young person, can be critical if application and commitment is to be sustained. [Dennison and Kirk (1990) draw attention to Mumford's observation that the 'virtuous cycle' of experiential learning does have a mirror image: a 'vicious cycle' where an absence of support and reward leads students to struggle to apply their learning, who cannot see its relevance and, as a result, lose motivation. Constructive learning and development grinds to a halt.] Of course, there is always much to be done to cement positive relationships and understanding, and a sense of mutual trust, and there are a host of questions about how much 'choice' young people should have in selecting (and rejecting) such people. Too much choice can produce too much control for the young person; too little choice may mean that aspirations to provide requisite support come to nothing. Hence the use of the word 'professional': the supporting individual may not necessarily be a professional (indeed, there are good arguments for them being volunteers), but they do need training in order to understand how best to support young people's needs and not simply response to their immediate wants. A little more, by way of conclusion, will be said about this below.
Ultimately, supporting disadvantaged young people into, and in, the labour market – whether as employees or self-employed – carries few guarantees and considerable chances of failure. The process depends not just on the characteristics, skills and resources of the individual, but on the characteristics, skills and resources of those around them. These complex relationships cannot predict with any certainty whether they will produce a fragile toehold, a reasonable foothold or a substantial footprint in the world of employment and enterprise.
Perhaps it is instructive here to draw upon a theory of change that is now central to practice with addictive behaviours yet, strangely, has rarely been a reference point in education and training. Prochaska and Diclemente's (1986) 'cycle of change' posits, in relation to drug and alcohol dependency, that individuals go through a period, often very protracted, of 'pre-contemplation' in which there may be vague thoughts, but very little real resolution and accompanying determination, to do anything about their situation. Many factors, however, may propel a shift into a time of 'contemplation', when there is an authentic desire to address their condition. And while no amount of cajoling, warning or pressure is likely to make much difference during the time of 'pre-contemplation' (after all, most people do in fact know the risks they are taking), support and intervention during the 'contemplation' phase holds considerable promise to effect change. Without it, many more people fail to realise their hopes and quickly relapse, though even with counselling and other forms of support, some inevitably do still relapse. For them, the cycle goes round again, but meanwhile others have moved on to more positive life-styles.
A similar argument might be advanced in relation to young people and the labour market, particularly those prone to drop-out, exclusion and marginalisation. While most would say that they aspire to legitimate work and income, many are entrenched in their exclusion and apparently hostile to overtures of support and resistant even to compulsory training requirements supposedly designed to assist them in fulfilling their aspirations. Just under 10% of those targeted by the New Deal for Young People, which was enforced with no 'fifth option of remaining unemployed', simply disappeared from the unemployment register rather than join the programme. A similar proportion refused to join the earlier Youth Training Scheme for 16 and 17 year olds – see Horton 1985. However, sooner or later (and sooner, with the right kind of support and encouragement), most young people reach a stage of 'contemplation', willing if not eager to explore more actively their prospects and possibilities in the labour market. It is at this point that the concerted action of a range of professionals and employers – careers guidance, youth workers, NGOs, private sector employers, what Williamson has called 'critical people at critical moments' (see Social Exclusion Unit 2000) – may assist and build upon such motivation. We may hope to instil such motivation quickly after the end of post-compulsory education, but for some young people – young adults – this process may have to be activated considerably later. However, while there may be 'relapse' on the part of some, change will be effected in many others.
As a footnote to this point, there is sometimes a belief that all pre-existing difficulties faced by disadvantaged young people have to be sorted out before an individual is 'job-ready'. Hence programmes to address issues such as poor literacy or substance misuse. Yet these young people often see no need to change, even if they have been told it is necessary on numerous occasions, for they see no job on the horizon. If such young people can find work with sensitive and sympathetic employers, and be sure of an infrastructure of support around them, then they themselves will soon realise that their capacity to do the work they desire is impaired by their existing 'problems'. This will then engender the motivation to address the prevailing issues – it will give them a reason to – and the wider support will enable them to do so.
This has been a long digression from the question of 'enterprise', but the enterprise agenda cannot be considered in isolation from that of employment more generally. And the same arguments apply, so long as young people have self-employment within their 'horizons for action'. Some, through encouragement or self-determination, will be motivated to take that path.
VIII. Contexts for development – improving the terrain in preparing for enterprise
While there may be no 'magic bullet' for the successful promotion of 'enterprise' amongst unemployed young people, just as there are few certainties in strategies for preparing young people for the labour market more generally, there are certainly some pre-requisites that may significantly improve the prospects of such intentions. These, predictably, are located within sites of personal and social formation:
· education and schooling
· vocational preparation
· labour market
A. School – work simulation and enterprise education
Many schools nowadays, within various aspects of the curriculum, include elements such as learning for economic understanding, industrial awareness and the 'world of work'. There continues to be discussion about the balance to be struck between 'academic', 'vocational' and more 'citizenship' components of schooling, as well as at what point things should start. Awareness of labour market issues may, arguably, be introduced long before secondary schooling (Smith 1988).
Whether or not there is acceptance of, or assertion for, the need to 'prepare' young people for the labour market, there is certainly a case for making young people more aware of the range of destinations that could be available to them on leaving education. And this would, and should, include the possibility of enterprise. Thus there is a prima facie case for schools to ensure a menu of both active and didactic learning opportunities around the labour market. These should be diverse, in order to open up horizons rather than de-limit options. Just as the police are increasingly involved in school-based education and awareness-raising on matters such as crime, drug misuse and personal safety, so local employers should be playing a part in assisting learning about economic and industrial affairs. This should take the form both of employers contributing to in-school programmes and of pupils paying visits to, and producing assignments on, different 'players' in the local labour market. Beyond this, there should be provision for work simulation and enterprise education (see Jamieson et al 1988a), as well as work experience and personal mentoring.2
B. Community – youth organisations and youth work opportunities
Beyond school, within the wider community, youth and community organisations provide a context in which young people can become actively involved, thus refining a range of 'soft skills' considered to be of importance in both personal and working life. These are not, however, an inevitable consequence of such participation, and the working methods of such organisations need to be directed towards extending the capacities and capabilities of young people involved with them, encouraging the taking of risks, and providing requisite levels of support. This is also a long-standing debate: young people are not going to develop initiative and enterprising skills if everything is handed on a plate, and there is increasingly recognition that such 'non-formal' education has to put the learner/participant, rather than the product/service, at the heart of its activity. The jury remains out, however, on precisely how one provides proof of emergent characteristics and the mechanisms by which they have been engendered. Notwithstanding this challenge, access to such experiential learning (learning-by-doing) contexts has to be considered an important foundation for the building of enterprise confidence and competence.
C. Vocational training
Only at the last minute before its national roll-out did the UK's New Deal for Young People introduce the possibility of a 'new deal for self-employment'. Throughout the planning stages there were to be only four options for unemployed young adults – an employer option, further education and training, a voluntary sector option and the environmental task force. Subsequently, however, it was recognised that some young people, particularly those with an interest in work within the 'creative industries', might wish – or need – to branch out into self-employment. As a result, they were permitted to engage with the NDYP and – in order not to subvert social protection legislation – any 'profits' they made during their six months on the programme were held in trust for them, almost as a launch pad for the moment they sought to venture out on their own.
'Enterprise', as 'entrepreneurship', can mean many things – from cutting edge vision and innovation (such as Dyson vacuum cleaners), through skilled self-employment (for example, in craft skills), to unskilled odd-jobbing (such as car valeting or window-cleaning). But, in its diverse forms, it has its place within vocational training initiatives, and needs to be accommodated within them. The critical issue, as with school, is that broad horizons are sustained and 'revolving doors' are avoided. Young people's motivation soon evaporates when they are expected, or required, to go through the same hoops once again. Thus vocational training programmes need to ensure a balance of skill instruction, job tasters, personal support, attention to more personal and social 'barriers' to the labour market, and consideration of self-employment. The latter is an option that may not be taken up by many, but without access to, and awareness of the option, young people are de facto denied the possibility of even considering it. There is, therefore, a case for more advanced versions of the issues that may first have been encountered within schooling provision – such as product development for local non-commercial customers, or services made available to local not-for-profit organisations. This, in some ways, represents a bridge between vocational preparation and the 'real' labour market, a version of which has been developed through the establishment of 'intermediate labour markets' and 'community enterprise'.
In Iceland, there is a private enterprise which supports the 'social inclusion' agenda. It is subsidised by the government but has diversified in true entrepreneurial style: today, it produces conservatories to order, does car valeting, recycles electrical goods, does food packaging, offers a copying and printing service, and provides a canteen for visitors to the nearby old people's home. Many of these services would not be commercially viable, but they enable the 'disengaged' young people with whom the programme works to understand the basis of business enterprise and their role and 'value' within it. The young people may only be 'paid' the equivalent of social benefits for the young unemployed, but the effort of some of them does not merit, on an economic calculation alone, even that remuneration. The Director of the programme clearly has a broader agenda than 'enterprise' alone, but the entrepreneurial culture of the project is central to its development and to the learning of the young people who are part of it.
D. Labour market
Even when young people reach the 'real' labour market, as employees or through self-employment, some are still likely to require access to guidance, support or further training. Here the issues depart from substantial structured intervention and are concerned more with timely, responsive business mentoring, personal support or financial assistance (such as seed-funding or bridging loans). Conventional structures (banks, enterprise agencies) do not always look sympathetically or appropriately at young people who do not fit the conventional 'mould'. This is not, of course, just a one-way process: part of personal support is about advising young people to maximising their prospects through moulding themselves in ways that increase their chances of success. Within any local environment, there are always individuals, often retired, with both professional and craft experience, who are willing to take young people 'under their wing' and dispense helpful advice and offer them a sense of direction. A local infrastructure with this end in mind is, however, often absent. As a result, more isolated young people with the qualities and will for pursuing enterprise can often fall at the first hurdle.
IX. Policy development for the regions – concrete practical proposals
Regions should act as an interface between the national and local levels with regard to the adoption and implementation of youth transition and enterprise training policies thus guaranteeing coherence and co-ordination between European, national, regional and local schemes and programmes as well as between public and private initiatives.
In general, regions should seek to foster an understanding of entrepreneurship and its benefits to society and economic regional growth by undertaking awareness-raising, disseminating information on available programmes to young people, showcasing regional success stories, and organising information days and campaigns in order to promote a new model of entrepreneurship as something open to most people given the right training and support.
Some of the measures outlined below could be used by regions to frame and implement, in conjunction with national authorities, a territorial strategy and overall plan for enterprise education in establishments coming under regional authority. These plans should be tailored to the regional economic and social context and build on schemes that have been successfully implemented throughout Europe such as the Junior Achievement-Young Enterprise programmes.
A. Immediately practicable measures
i. Improved collaboration between business and education
The following measures could be put into effect through improved local collaboration between business and education. There are, today, clear models for 'education – business partnerships'. These build on the increasing recognition within business of 'corporate social responsibility' (CSR) and the increasing need within education for business acumen and knowledge.
o It is important that all schools have a thread of active learning practice focused, by age and stage, on business and community, economic awareness, work simulations and mini-enterprise.
o All schools should encourage student assignments in other areas of the curriculum to have some focus on the historical and contemporary aspects of local business development.
o Students in secondary education should have the possibility to have a quality work experience placement with local employers, coupled with business mentoring and support.
o Specific learning and support materials should be available, designed to help teachers and pupils better appreciate business needs and improve the relevance of education to the job market of tomorrow and an allowance for increased funding for specialised teacher training in this field should be available.
o Recognition of enterprise qualifications is also important if entrepreneurship is to be given its appropriate value.
ii. A qualitative rather than quantitative approach
The next set of measures would require a changed emphasis in what is recognised as important. Regional governance needs to shift its focus to celebrate and recognise the quality of intervention and support given to young people, rather than the quantity of immediate outcomes. Risk is inherently connected to the 'entrepreneurial spirit' and therefore has to be accommodated within, not exterminated from, public services; otherwise, cultures of dependency will be sustained.
o Youth and community projects should place more emphasis, in any initiatives developed for young people, on the principle that adults do 'only those things that young people cannot do by virtue of their age'.
o Community structures should include an appropriate pro rata representation of young people within their management and decision-making.
iii. Tailor-making programmes to regional needs and realities
Vocational programmes are, too often, determined and developed through national (even international) blueprints. They need to be geared much more closely to the local/regional formal and social economy and the regions problems. This is important for both perceptions of relevance and for progression. It may assist young people not just in increasing their enterprise skills, but in spotting gaps in their local/regional market to which they may respond.
o Regional administrations could set up specific units for enterprise promotion which would not only simplify administrative conditions and procedures (one-stop-shop – as in Portugal’s Business Formalities Centres) but would institute regional indicators, quantitative measures and programme evaluations (for cost-effectiveness, regional relevance, sustainability, etc), then ensure that feedback is given on a regular basis with regard to initiatives to establish their road-worthiness. Such units would further provide timely and pertinent advice to regional start-ups, giving advice on legal issues, benefits and taxation matters pertaining to starting off in business and establish an inventory of good practices at regional level while providing a forum for discussion of enterprise issues, awareness-raising and exchange of good practice and dissemination of information, thereby enabling the identification of new enterprise opportunities in the region.
o Vocational training production should be part of enterprise learning: young people involved in vocational preparation programmes should have the opportunity to build on any school based mini-enterprise learning to not only create, but also to price and market, their products.
o Young people should learn that 'enterprise' is not just about private sector profit but also about social engagement and responsibility – vocational training programmes need to link with local intermediate labour markets and community enterprise that serve the local community.
o The region’s most vulnerable groups should be the focus of specific action - gender and ethnic imbalances in regional enterprise strategies should be averted and redressed and action by minority groups or networks aimed at enterprise activities should be supported at regional level, thus ensuring that entrepreneurship initiatives also support young people with specific needs (disabled, migrants, ethnic minorities, first-time job seekers).
iv. Less bureaucracy, more flexibility
Labour market 'enterprise development' programmes are, too often, hamstrung by convoluted procedures and bureaucracy. Regional administrations need to support a robust 'checking and vetting' process for new business ideas but subsequently support far greater flexibility in decisions concerning financial and human support and the timing and duration of those interventions.
o Young people contemplating setting up in business – and whose business idea and plan is sound, and who are quite likely to get financial support and business advice – should be encouraged to test out their personal resilience through a week-long programme designed to challenge them to the limit. There are already programmes that could be adapted for this particular purpose.
o Business incubators, grants and loans, and the duration and frequency of business advice need to be more carefully tailored to the complexity of the new business development and the character of those setting it up. Fixed, rigid models and rules are rarely effective; more individualised response is needed.
o Public premises could be provided for young entrepreneurs at special rates.
o The matching of retired or other willing business people with 'starting off' young people to provide mentoring and support is particularly important – such inter-generational connections are important well beyond the world of enterprise!
o Regional administrations should lobby their central governments for a reduction in national fiscal and social charges with regard to small and medium-sized enterprises.
B. Some more difficult policy questions
i. Individual learning/training/enterprise allowances
Public allowances could and should be made available, but there is a mixed track record of evidence about the value of these: while they may encourage young people to remain in learning, they also produce a risk of propping up lame-duck enterprise which fold as soon as the allowance ends. Further work needs to be done on this issue – and this highlights the importance of follow-up and monitoring by a specialised service.
Regional administrations should perhaps rather consider giving financial support to non-governmental organisations and other organisations that widely disseminate entrepreneurship education programmes as well as the educational establishments they collaborate with.
ii. Reforming welfare to accommodate enterprise
In those countries where public sector benefits exist, and particularly where they are relatively generous, there are tricky legal issues about starting off in business, receiving benefits and taxation. In their different contexts, these need urgent attention.
Regional authorities should, in accordance with their competences, eliminate obstacles that may hamper entrepreneurial activity as far as possible and seek to reduce the overall tax burdens faced by companies in general and provide more favourable tax environments for business angels as an acknowledgement of their positive role in promoting enterprise.
iii. Giving every young person a 'mentor' or 'trusted adult'
In principle this idea is not to be contested, but the questions to be answered are who, for how long, between what ages; should they get paid; to whom are they accountable; on what basis should they be selected (what skills / competences do they need); how should they be allocated – there are a host of questions which have still to be resolved (despite overwhelming evidence that such an individual would both be welcomed and beneficial to young people).
iv. Disproportionate intervention and support for more disadvantaged young people
Again this is not, in principle, an issue of contention, but the devil is in the detail. How is 'disadvantage' to be defined? What kind of support and intervention? What sort of people should provide it? Should it be imposed, or as a result of request?
There is a large 'grid' of issues, extending horizontally and moving, vertically, over time, that capture the ground on which this debate is taking place. Within any particular region many things will already be going on (though they may need more tying together), while others will be conspicuous by their absence. The final point here, therefore, is that there needs to be agreement about the 'grid' overall, and then local/regional dialogue between relevant parties about how evident gaps may potentially be plugged.
C. The grid (and its potential)
The grid needs to incorporate, vertically, the development and progression of young people from primary schooling, through secondary schooling, vocational preparation and higher education, to the labour market. Horizontally, it needs to take account of:
o enterprise: knowledge, skills and understanding, experience and opportunity;
o young people themselves: their capacity for active learning and choices of learning pathways (within and beyond formal schooling);
o the human support available in the context of complex transitions: mentors, coaches, business advice;
o the facilitating or obstructing infrastructure: financial and legal frameworks (such as allowances, grants/loans, welfare provision, taxation).
Through exploring the component of the grid in any particular region, through discussion with educationalists, private and public sector business, NGOs and others, one would not only identify gaps in provision but would also be well on the way towards agreeing a workable development plan with all relevant parties involved!
Entrepreneurship and the regions
Most of the sources of job creation are in spheres where regions are active and enjoy exclusive or shared powers; this means that they have a more vital role to play than ever before in devising strategies for creating jobs and combating unemployment. Strong regions are therefore a vital component of a national economy and regional policies should be designed to boost their capacity for innovation and enterprise.
Promoting an entrepreneurial culture in Europe’s regions, leading to more of its citizens, regardless of age, gender or background, starting their own business will be one of the keys to economic growth in the future.
There are noticeable disparities between Europe’s regions in employment and economic growth as well as in attitudes to entrepreneurship. This report has sought to show that enterprise education, training and preparation for the work place should therefore be a priority and be backed by substantial financial resources in order to ensure that the job creation potential of entrepreneurial activity is better exploited.
The Rapporteur believes it is therefore urgent for states to undertake awareness-raising of the importance of entrepreneurship to economic regional growth and to promote a new model of entrepreneurship as a concrete skill that can be learned as opposed to an abstract gift the fortunate few are born with.
The Rapporteur further believes that empowering young people to actively participate in the creation of economic wealth for their region will not only ensure long-term sustainability, it will also further the objectives of greater social cohesion and the integration of a youth perspective across the board as outlined in the Action Plan adopted during the Council of Europe’s Third Summit of Heads of State and Government in Warsaw, 16-17 May 2005.
This report has therefore sought to identify the stepping stones – through personal, social, academic and vocational development – that may produce pathways to employment and enterprise or entrepreneurship. Each has the potential to alter, incrementally, the vocational identities of those concerned, in order to at least accommodate the possibility of enterprise.
The report suggests that within the Council of Europe this discussion should be taken further by the Congress who could, in co-operation with the Steering Committee for Youth (CDEJ), the Steering Committee for Equality between Women and Men (CDEG) and the Committee of Experts on Integration and Diversity (MG-ID) study the feasibility of setting up an interdisciplinary initiative to foster enterprise education and training in particular among less well-represented groups among entrepreneurs such as ethnic minorities and women.
The European Union, for its part, should be invited, when continuing its work in this field, to ensure that in the process of enlargement, the strengthening of policies and resources for entrepreneurship is accorded a due priority in applicant and, indeed, existing member countries.
Enterprise and disadvantaged young people
With regard to encouraging enterprise amongst more disadvantaged groups of young people, this report has pointed out the pitfalls as well as the prospects. It counsels caution when suggesting that enterprise alone is a solution to the contemporary challenges of youth unemployment. As already noted, it may be that enterprise with greater potential can be detected more readily amongst other sectors of the youth population, and we need to be promoting their capacity to create employment – and the jobs to which more disadvantaged young people more often aspire.
One of the difficulties attached to seeking to cultivate initiative and enterprise in disadvantaged young people is that they, more than other groups of young people, have to negotiate demands for very different attributes in different segments of the labour market. Governments, politicians and some professionals recurrently invoke surveys of employers calling for more of the 'soft skills' of enterprise. They say that this is what employers want. But which employers? These may be the characteristics sought by senior managers of large companies with internal labour markets – the very people who sit on governmental consultative committees. But they are not the characteristics required of other employers who want very specific knowledge and skills derived from high level education and training or, more critically for the more disadvantaged, those small employers who want little more than reliability, punctuality, hard work and obedience. The latter may be a shrinking segment of the labour market but it is still a significant one – and it is one that does not welcome young people who may question decisions, challenge approaches or suggest alternatives – the very qualities for 'enterprise'.
Hence the need for some caution and the imperative for parallel personal support and guidance for these young people. And this is not a task for well-intentioned but ill-informed and unqualified practitioners. In a slightly different context, Williamson has frequently invoked the metaphor of car drivers (perhaps unconsciously making the link with one of the dominant metaphors for youth transitions – see above). This is not work for learner drivers. Working with disadvantaged young people on any front is always a complex challenge, for the wider issues from their past and present lives are always likely to surface at 'inconvenient', and sometimes unexpected moments. To charge inexperienced 'youth workers' with responsibilities for this group is, it has been argued, like asking learner drivers to navigate fast cars on icy mountain roads. It should be no surprise when they crash! What is needed instead are advanced drivers who know, almost intuitively, when to press on the accelerator and when to apply the brake. Even so, some will still crash, but more are likely to complete the journey – and send young people on their way.
Such 'advanced drivers' cannot remain on the practice track, and nor can young people. The policy challenge is identifying the right moments for a 'gear change' from giving priority to personal and social issues to vocational and employment issues. To 'launch' young people into 'enterprise' prematurely is to set them up to fail, but allowing them to remain in the comfort zone of, for example, a personal development youth programme for too long, is equally inappropriate. Ultimately, however, the advanced driver cannot tell young people what to do; they have to make their own decisions. These decisions will be informed by their subjective sense of meaning and relevance, and, too often, youth training initiatives are perceived as meaningless and irrelevant to their needs and aspirations. They have been coerced into circumstances and directions which are not of their choosing. This takes us back to the question of motivation and cycles of change. Advanced drivers are in a position to know 'their' young people well enough to know what counts as meaningful and relevant and to know how to support their movement in that direction.
In England, the 'Connexions' service (a 'youth support service' for 13-19 years – see DfEE 2000) has sought to build on these ideas through the allocation of a 'personal adviser' to every young person and to provide a 'universal service differentiated according to need'. But the 'personal adviser' is only one side of the equation. For their endeavours to be effective, they have to connect young people to other services they may need or want to access. Without that wider provision, the capability and credibility of personal advisers is limited. The same point holds for 'enterprise': whoever is providing personal support for young people needs to be able to attach them, in a timely and purposeful way, to contexts in employment, business and enterprise. Without that prospect, any enterprise trajectory will grind to a halt. It is rather like heroin addicts who decide that they wish to address their addiction but are then told that the first appointment is likely to be at least six months down the track: their motivation evaporates spontaneously and they revert to their existing behaviour.
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Texts adopted by the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities:
Recommendation 25(1996) on “Unemployment/employment: new activities and occupations”
Resolution 40(1996) on “Unemployment/employment: new activities and occupations”
Recommendation 52(1998) on the regions and employment: contribution to social cohesion in Europe
Resolution 72(1998) on the regions and employment: contribution to social cohesion in Europe
Recommendation 129(2003) on employment and vulnerable groups
Resolution 153(2003) on employment and vulnerable groups
1 The Secretariat of the Congress wishes to thank the expert, Mr Howard Williamson, Professor of European Youth Policy at the University of Glamorgan, Wales, United Kingdom, for preparing this report.