Stuart Brown
Stuart Brown

Future entrepreneurs need support too

Scotland could be at risk of missing out on vital growth, to be delivered by the next generation of entrepreneurs unless action is taken, warns Barclays as new research is published today.

Barclays Business Banking found that nearly half (49%) of Scottish school children aged 8-16 want to launch their own business when they grow up – contrary to the myth that young people just want to be celebrities or sports stars. This is higher than the UK national average of 42%.

Estimates show that if this entrepreneurial spirit is nurtured, by 2025 the UK could create a future generation of entrepreneurs – almost 100,000 new businesses that would contribute an extra £23.3 billion to the UK economy and create 400,000 new jobs.

Yet analysis reveals that the proportion of UK start-ups run by entrepreneurs aged 25 and under in 2016 was just 6%. This is lower than any other age category of start-up owners, demonstrating a critical gap between ambition and the number of start-ups run by young people.

Despite great ambition, a third (37%) of Scottish school children don’t actually know what an ‘entrepreneur’ is, confusing the term for a ‘French man’, a ‘magician’, or a ‘circus man’. What’s more, Scottish school children believe that there are significant barriers to becoming an entrepreneur and you need certain qualities to succeed, including:

Being able to take risks (37%)
Having luck on your side (22%)
Having family connections (12%)

Furthermore, a tenth (12%) think you need to be an adult to start your own business and 8% think you need to do well at school but just 4% of Scottish schoolchildren think it’s only open to rich people compared to a tenth (11%) UK wide.

Of the children who want to start a business when they grow up, digital businesses are the most popular sector of interest. Over a fifth (22%) of UK children say they want to start a digital business, citing vlogging, app building or video game design as examples.

The research also demonstrates the future business skills this generation already holds; more than half (59%) of Scottish 8-16 year olds count blogging amongst their digital skills and 35% can code. A quarter (27%) can build apps and almost a third (29%) say they can build websites.

Without direct investment in education to help nurture and develop these skills and to remove barriers to entrepreneurship, the UK could lag behind other countries as a breeding ground for young business starters of the future. With this in mind, Barclays has created tailored educational content to help young people develop ‘21st Century Skills’ through its LifeSkills4 programme. LifeSkills created by Barclays teaches 11-24 year olds vital skills needed in the world of business, while the bank runs events for younger children through its regional Eagle Labs help to map out ambitions from a young age.

Stuart Brown, Head of SME Scotland at Barclays, commented: “Today’s children are demonstrating new skills that have the potential to disrupt and innovate business and it’s no surprise that Scotland, with its rich history of innovation, has a generation of ambitious entrepreneurs waiting in the wings. However, something is going wrong as this passion from the younger population is not translating into numbers of start-ups run by those aged 25 and under. If we want this talent and ambition to flourish, we all need to encourage children who should have access to the right tools and resources to convert their dreams into the businesses of the future. We’re calling on the rest of the industry and government to get behind the next generation of entrepreneurs.”

Geoff Leask, Chief Executive at Young Enterprise Scotland, an organisation that has for 25 years been inspiring and equipping young people in Scotland through enterprise, commented: “Last year we engaged nearly 15,000 young people in primary, secondary and tertiary education in ‘learning by doing’ enterprise activities. There are some wonderful success stories out there and there is still more work needing to be done. Ongoing support from local and national government is required along with the engagement of the business community to smash some of the myths about enterprise and entrepreneurship and to gain recognition for the skills developed  via programmes like ours and how valuable they will be for young people in their life beyond education.”