Why Labour needs to embrace entrepreneurship
Written by Sabina Khan
As the latest figures show Britain’s youth unemployment, especially in deprived areas such as my area of Brent in north-west London, is still unacceptably high and increasing, totalling over a staggering one million 18-24-year-olds in the UK. Having started and run recruitment and training companies and worked with organisations such as Citizens Advice Bureau, Connexions and community groups to deliver apprenticeships, training and guidance for young people, I believe more needs to be done to help those whose interests and potential lie outside of the scope of traditional job markets
Too often back to work initiatives are geared only around getting them into jobs within existing businesses. But the problem with this ‘one size fits all’ approach is that it neglects a significant proportion of young talented individuals who possess the spirit and instincts of entrepreneurialism.
Many young unemployed people I have met have highly marketable ideas and potential products, services and skills whose potential remains untested or unfulfilled. The barriers that exist for these individuals in pursuing their ideas include their lack of understanding of business-critical knowledge and skills as well as lack of tailored support and guidance. For any entrepreneur, making their ideas a reality involves being able to answer questions such as who will be making the product, evaluating costs, control of supply chain, market knowledge, customers and ability to sell or promote their goods or service. However, there is minimal customised support available to them within the existing support framework for young people. The word ‘aspire’ is bandied about a lot but now, more than ever, a Labour government needs to be bold and listen to the pleas of the young who want the opportunity to work and prosper.
There is another way to approach this. It involves making use of the third sector and social enterprise to promote collaborative working with communities to offer a practical vision for young people to engage in the world of work. By establishing a single national social enterprise operating across the country, funded and supported by central government, with the remit to help young entrepreneurs in turning their ideas, passion and creativity into businesses generating income and profit and a livelihood for them.
In addition this would support community groups to focus on developing young people as potential entrepreneurs. If a young teenage mother has a passion and talent for clothes and fashion, the community group should have the tools and support in place to spot the opportunity and encourage her to pursue her passion through the social enterprise. This government-backed enterprise would utilise the services of industry specialists, able to help and develop people and their ideas based on their own knowledge and experience of starting and running businesses. This last point is important as it needs to be a body seen to be competent and being able to ‘walk the walk’ in delivering in its goals.
It is often said that the best ideas and successful businesses arise during hard times. Labour needs to position itself as the party of choice for young people by offering hope and a vehicle for their aspirations through innovative models such as this. By implementing this entrepreneurship scheme in conjunction with Labour’s youth job guarantee, this will offer a real chance for everyone which breaks away from the idea that jobs are made only within the confines of existing businesses. Labour should commit itself to helping young people start their own businesses in this way.