Tenners for kids - but schools not on the money

We can't wait to see what the latest batch of Tenner Tycoons come up with. But maybe we shouldn't need competitions like this...

by James Taylor
Last Updated: 19 Aug 2013
Enterprise UK may be on its way out, but one of its highest-profile initiatives is very much alive and kicking: this week sees the launch of this year’s ‘Make Your Mark with a Tenner’ competition, newly re-christened ‘Tenner Tycoon’. If you're not familiar with the idea, the clue's in the name: some 40,000 schoolchildren get one month to turn a nice crisp £10 note into as much money as they can, simply by utilising their entrepreneurial talents. With the economy wheezing and job prospects for young people looking pretty grim, there’s never been a better time to encourage these kids to do their own thing.

Most people would agree that fostering a more entrepreneurial culture in the UK would be a big help on our long road to recovery. But at the moment, we seem to be falling at the first hurdle. According to a study of 1,000 14-19-year-olds carried out to mark the launch of this year’s Tenner Tycoon, there's no shortage of entrepreneurial ambition among our young people – more than half apparently want to be their own boss. Unfortunately, just one in five think their school is doing enough to encourage these ambitions. Some of them even said they get more business inspiration from shows like Dragons Den than they do from their teachers. Poor things.

Still, that’s where initiatives like Tenner Tycoon come in. The brainchild of entrepreneur Oli Barrett and backed by dragon Peter Jones (with help from Bebo founders Michael and Xochi Birch and the Big Lottery Fund), it's giving out £400,000 worth of tenners to teenagers - a brave move in anyone's book - who'll then have a month to make as much profit as possible. There's also a special category for the projects that have the greatest social impact. And judging by previous years, there'll be no shortage of invention and imagination.

Any competition that encourages young people to get involved with business and enterprise has to be a good thing. And with youth unemployment at record levels, the need for this has never been greater. But it’s clearly no substitute for proper enterprise education in schools – as the people behind Tenner Tycoon point out. Indeed, their research found that 56% of those surveyed felt that business education should be compulsory in schools.

As we’ve discussed recently, our schools need to be doing more to prepare our children for the world of work – and, particularly, to foster the high-level skills Britain will need to compete in the 21st century economy. There are pockets of progress, but we clearly still have some way to go. The hope is that one day, competitions like this won’t even be necessary.

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