How will it help budding entrepreneurs?
I started my own business while I was still at school. By 21 I had a great house and an expensive car, but I lost it all because I made mistakes. My businesses failed several times before I achieved real success simply because I didn’t have anyone to teach me. Instead, I had to learn from my own mistakes. The NEA will offer young people the opportunity to learn first-hand from the experience of real life entrepreneurs, and business people, (like myself) through a unique programme of masterclasses and mentoring.
Why is such an academy necessary?
Unlocking the potential of Britain’s young entrepreneurial talent is essential to the future success and competitiveness of UK PLC. We need entrepreneurs to stimulate the economy and businesses need inspired employees to help their companies recover and grow.
What is your level of involvement?
I have invested my own time and money [£4 million] in establishing the NEA and I’ve not done this out of idle philanthropy, but because I firmly believe the NEA can help transform the entrepreneurial culture of the UK, make the UK a global leader in enterprise education and strengthen our economy.
Could the NEA help to reduce unemployment?
There’s no silver bullet or simple answer to solve rising youth unemployment. It’s a complex issue that transcends education and is linked to wider economic trends. But what I can say is that new and innovative educational programmes, like the NEA, have a key role to play. What’s great about the NEA, and indeed the other academies that are part of The National Skills Academy Network, is that they are employer-led. That means they are designed by real business people to meet the demands of the real business world. So when students graduate from the NEA, they’ll be equipped with the skills and mindset to thrive and prosper in the modern world of work.
Are we an enterprising nation?
I passionately believe that deep down we are. To coin a phrase, ‘Britain’s got talent’, but as a nation we just don’t do enough to foster entrepreneurialism. Consequently, very few school-leavers think of starting their own businesses or are encouraged to do so. With the advent of the NEA, we can begin to nurture and unlock the latent entrepreneurial potential that exists in this country. For me, it’s about doing away with the ‘Can I?’ mindset and replacing it with an ‘I can’ attitude.