Kim Howells – 2004 Speech on Entrepreneurship Education

Below is the text of the speech made by the then Education Minister, Kim Howells, to the Institute for Small Business Affairs on 4th November 2004. NB – some monetary figures are not available on this speech.

May I congratulate the Institute for Small Business Affairs on organising this conference?

It is very timely and extremely relevant. Like South Wales where I come from, the north east has had to re-invent itself in the 1980s. There was talk of terminal decline, fragmented communities. In this changing social and economic landscape people faced an uncertain future, a future with new challenges. Tackling these challenges, we know, would require a shift in thinking. Old skills would have to be replaced as old industries closed. To fill the void we would have to learn new skills and adapt to different national and international demands.

Promoting the debate on the need for this realignment were the Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SMEs), enterprises you represent. Together with your partners you continue to lay foundations for the future prosperity of the region. But I recognise that you’re unable to work wonders alone. That is why this Government, committed to offering opportunity to all, to marrying social justice with economic success, is keen to build partnerships with this key sector. We need to create partnerships that offer young people now and in the future relevant experiences of the world of work. We need to equip them to take on the challenges that lie ahead. To do so they will need to be inspired risk-takers, motivators who are adaptable and capable of innovation; in a word, enterprising.

But many of our young people have an insufficient grasp of these key skills. As many in this audience will attest, too many leave school without the skills employers need. You will hear today of how our European and wider international partners and competitors are tackling these issues and the part education plays in these strategies. And these are lessons we in the UK must listen to. We have an immensely strong and stable economy, but our productivity continues to suffer because of an imbalance in skills available and skills needed in a number of key areas. And they are not only in basic skills, as one may think. For example, comparative wage increases for corporate managers suggest that management skills may be in short supply. And this is when demand for such expertise is expected to increase by 650,000.

Foundation Degrees

I recognise that as a Government we can only tackle such shortages properly by listening more to employers. But I also believe that both Government and employers must develop stronger broader partnerships if we’re to raise the nation’s skills base. It’s something we can only do together. So, it may come as no surprise that I welcome the latest figures showing that over 24,000 students are now studying for Foundation Degrees – compared with 12,400 the previous year. And indications are positive with acceptances on full-time courses this year 2004, up one third at the same point last year.

Foundation Degrees can be available in both full-time and flexible modes of study (including work-based and distance learning and part-time study) to suit employers and learners. The length of course varies according to the place offering the course, the subject and method of delivery, and whether the student is part or full time. Conventional full-time courses currently take two years, other courses may take between 2 to 4 years.

Crucially, and this ought to be a massive incentive for more of your sector to become involved, Foundation Degrees are designed in conjunction with employers. They are designed to meet skills shortages at the higher technician and associate professional level. They’re developed and delivered by partnerships of employers, higher education institutions and further education colleges with work-based learning as a key characteristic. And I’m sure you will agree with me when I say I would like to see more SMEs taking advantage of this opportunity to influence learning. It’s a real, tangible opportunity to shape the future.

The University of Teesside is drawing on business expertise in its pioneering Upgrade2 programme. It helps graduates from any university or degree discipline to set up new businesses in fields ranging from animation and computer games to interior design and music. New Entrepreneur Scholarships provide training and support for potential entrepreneurs in the Tees valley. And similar innovations can be found in the Burnside Business and Enterprise College. Proof of the power of partnership in nurturing the next generation of business leaders.

Partnership is also central to our 5 Year Strategy in which we place work-related learning at the heart of our education system, and it’s certainly a key element of the Government’s 14-19 strategy.   We’re determined that an integral part of every school’s work-related learning programme should involve learning about enterprise. We want to see enterprise just as much a part of the school day as core subjects such as English or science. Indeed, the Qualifications and Curriculum’s Authority (QCA) guidance on work-related learning, is quite emphatic on this point, with a key guideline that states: “students should be taught to recognise, develop and apply enterprise and employability skills’.

I see schools as uniquely placed to give students these opportunities, but I don’t expect them to do so alone. My Department is providing funding of ?? million a year from September 2005 to enable each school to develop enterprise education. National guidance for schools will also be available, including QCA case studies of enterprise in all subjects.

Enterprise Education Pathfinder

Crucial to this guidance is the Enterprise Education Pathfinder programme, and I’m pleased to say it’s a programme going from strength to strength. One hundred and seventy one (171) Enterprise Pathfinder projects have been set up in the past 12 months in over 500 secondary schools. And we plan a full national roll-out next year.

Ferryhill Business and Enterprise College, Staindrop Comprehensive and Deerness Valley Comprehensive, in Ushaw Moor, are flying the flag for Durham. They’re working with the national charity ‘Changemaker’ to play an active role in community change. These schools will be part of a local and national social enterprise model encouraging enterprise capability amongst school children. And I know that the local LEA are keen to hear from any employer, or self-employed people interested in contributing to help young people take part in the project.

Some Pathfinder schools are encouraging teachers to undertake special enterprise-based Professional Development Placements. And they’re developing partnerships with the corporate world through initiatives such as enterprise focus groups. We need to view enterprise education as an integral part of the work-related learning programme, and not some separate bolt-on initiative.

This will be explored through the ‘Make Your Mark – start talking ideas’ campaign. It seeks to influence people between the ages of 14-25 to have a more enterprising outlook on life in general. The focus of this year’s campaign is Enterprise Week, running from 15th to 21st November. It will consist of over 500 events on the theme of enterprise. Many schools are taking part, and, I’m sure, will play a key role in making the week a success.

But for enterprise projects to have a more realistic feel requires the involvement of business as well as schools. There’s a huge and growing demand for all you have to offer – as organisations and individuals. That’s why Northumberland College is keen to have business represented on the new Learning Park campus currently in the planning stage. The relocation of the college to a more central location will focus provision of education and allow more people to gain the skills business requires. And it will further the development of Ashington Town Centre – an area particularly affected by the decline of the coal industry.

Several of the Education Enterprise Pathfinders have used their funding to appoint an Enterprise Co-ordinator to develop their business links, and organising enterprise days and other activities. There is a lot of mileage in this approach, which will be open for enterprising heads to adopt in September 2005. It‘s also a useful mechanism for strengthening collaboration between schools, which is another key aspect of the Government’s 14-19 strategy.

Enterprise Adviser Programme 

Running alongside the Enterprise pathfinders is the ?? million Enterprise Adviser programme managed by the Learning and Skills Council (LSC). This innovative scheme has sent Enterprise Advisers with business skills and experience to 1,000 schools in some of our most deprived areas, spreading the word about enterprise and the possibilities it can create in areas of deprivation; precisely those areas, affected by the industrial decline I mentioned earlier.


For a business to succeed it needs to remain competitive. To remain competitive it needs to be able to harness the skills and vision of new, young enterprising entrepreneurs. For these people to emerge we all need to offer them the opportunities to develop. That is the task for, Government and business working together. I believe Government is doing a great deal through education to nurture enterprise, to develop the skills business needs. But I would like to see more businesses become involved in the creation of the nascent entrepreneur. If they don’t, then that educational experience will be the poorer. So will the north east and so will the United Kingdom.