New support aims to help young people “Think Enterprise”

At its launch last month, the 3% campaign – developed by the Young People’s Enterprise Centre of Expertise – outlined its ambitious aim to create 5,000 young entrepreneurs by 2012.

The campaign, backed by Advantage West Midlands and Business Voice WM,  was based on research highlighting a number of barriers young people face when it comes to starting a business and accessing support in the West Midlands.

The research found that:

  • Relatively small amounts of funding can be instrumental in enabling young people to start productive businesses, but there is a gap in provision for those who do not meet the Prince’s Trust deprivation criteria or those not on student enterprise schemes.
  • Young entrepreneurs have short work histories and require business advisers and mentors who have relevant business experience to provide essential knowledge.
  • Young entrepreneurs highlighted the loneliness of working on their own when starting a business and the need for a pro-active support network.
  • Application forms for support are perceived as excessively bureaucratic and jargon-laden, deterring young entrepreneurs not familiar with the terminology and business.
  • Although a culture change is reported, many of our young skilled entrepreneurs are entirely disengaged from school.
  • Enterprise activities in schools are highly valued and supported, with the emphasis on getting young entrepreneurs involved in the Further Education sector.

Latest unemployment data shows that last month nearly 45,000 young people (18-24) in the West Midlands were claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance. This equates to a claimant rate of 8.7%, the highest youth claimant rate among the English regions.

Also, there are reports in the news that one in ten graduates are unemployed but also that young people view entrepreneurialism as a more preferable option to competing for limited job opportunities.

So, this week’s launch of the next stage of the 3% campaign — unveiling www.thinkenterprise.org — couldn’t have been more timely.

The site is a specialist, single gateway for under-25s looking to develop an idea, start a new business or who are seeking help to grow an existing company. It is expected to provide crucial advice, guidance and support to more than 10,000 individuals every year and will play a key role in helping achieve the targets of the campaign.

Screenshot: home page of Think Enterprise website

Jackie Brierton, Director of Young People’s Enterprise Centre of Expertise, believes the new website will have quite an impact:

‘We’re delighted that the West Midlands is again leading the way when it comes to delivering tailored enterprise support to our young people and this will have a major impact on the vitality of the economy.

Research has proven time and time again that young people are confused about where to go for support, feel isolated when developing new ideas and get turned off by the language used. There is also a genuine gap between start-ups and provision of continued mentoring for established businesses.

Our new web platform has been designed to address all of these issues, giving young people a single place they can visit to learn about business issues, find out which organisations can help with issues, such as funding, and, importantly, to network and inter-trade as part of an interactive community.’

www.thinkenterprise.org is completely different to anything that has been done before, ranging from the clear simple language and comprehensive business support database to video case studies of young people talking about their experiences, opportunities and challenges.

There are also a number of practical tools which guide entrepreneurs and companies through developing a business plan, marketing and raising finance.

The portal also has a dual purpose in providing information on young people’s enterprise for professionals involved with engaging and supporting the sector, including teachers, youth workers and business advisers.

There will be a two-way facility whereby support organisations can post relevant forthcoming events and new opportunities for under 25s.

For further information, contact info@thinkenterprise.org or telephone 02476 654131.

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