Can children benefit fully from vital business skills?

Students at a school in Kent have become the first graduates of a project aiming to teach children vital business skills. Is this the right preparation for a brave new world of uncertain prospects?

In a few years children could be learning business skills as a matter of routine

In a few years children could be learning business skills as a matter of routine

St Columba’s Catholic Boys’ School in Bexleyheath was the first to sign up to the ‘Kids MBA’ classes designed to offer them ‘a taster of the mindset, business skills and know-how that they will need to start a company or become self-employed’.

The ten-hour intensive course for 12-15 year olds has been designed by a team of academics, professionals and business people to provide business education that is not on the UK school curriculum. It covers topics such as business plans, bookkeeping, marketing and customer care.

I know when I was 13 years old, my main concerns were acne and social inadequacy rather than profit margins and product development. But socio-economic changes over the last decade, we are told, have meant the ‘job for life’ is less likely and ‘portfolio careers’ are increasingly common, demanding a different set of professional skills – skills that are better learnt at a young age.

It’s a brave new world indeed, and the next generation will need to be savvy to excel. But can children comprehend the intricacies of enterprise at such an early stage?

Business skills from an early age

There is evidence that it is indeed possible. Look at lifestyle brand Not Before Tea, for instance. Whizzkid Henry Patterson wrote the Adventures of Sherb and Pip when he was ten years old, and decided to launch his company soon after. Now, he is turning over close to six figures in his sleep. And I’m sure the Junior version of the Apprentice must have turned out a few prodigies by now, if they weren’t too traumatised by the menace of Alan Sugar’s outstretched digit.

So if the kids can cope in this day and age, we need to prepare them for the future. This is backed up by research from the British Chambers of Commerce, which found that a lack of focus in schools on the skills needed was one of the reasons businesses believed school leavers weren’t prepared for work.

Kids MBA was founded by Mark Watson-Gandy, an insolvency lawyer and visiting professor at the University of Westminster. He says he wants to give young people the skills – the ‘unsexy’ skills – they need to understand the principles of business and what they can achieve. He contends that business knowledge is now the source of young people’s economic independence.

Entrepreneurs seem to be getting younger, and in ten years’ time, our entrepreneurial visionaries may be drawing on business skills learnt as a child. Or maybe you, as a failed business owner in an ageing population who couldn’t compete with the emerging minds three generations below, will be reporting to an eight-year-old. Prepare yourself.

Further reading on young entrepreneurs

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