Running a business at school puts you ahead of the game

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Running a business at school almost doubles your chances of self-employment later in life, according to independent research by Kingston University Business School for Young Enterprise.

It shows that teenagers who get the chance to set up and run a profit-making enterprise in the classroom are almost twice as likely (42 per cent) to become company owners than those who have not (26 per cent), according to the new report.

To compile the research Dr Rosemary Athayde conducted a series of in-depth surveys and interviews with 371 ‘alumni’ who attended Young Enterprise programmes between 1962, when the charity was founded, and now.

She compared the results with a control group of 202 people who had never been on a Young Enterprise programme, adjusting for the difference in sample size.

The study also found that the companies that Young Enterprise alumni create tend to employ more people, turn over more money, be more innovative and high-tech, and are more resilient in surviving a recession than the companies set up by those who did not experience enterprise education at school.

The key findings were:

Young Enterprise alumni are more likely to end up running their own businesses: 42 per cent of the alumni surveyed set up firms compared to 26 per cent in the control group of non-alumni.

Alumni firms have a larger turnover: 12 per cent of the alumni firms are turning over £500,000 a year compared three per cent of the control group’s firms. In fact some three per cent of alumni firms turn over more than £1 million, compared to none among the non-alumni.

Alumni companies employ more people: 11 per cent have 51 to 99 employees compared nine per cent of the control group. Two per cent of the alumni have 100 to 249 employees compared to none in the control group.

Alumni firms are more innovative: 21.2 per cent of alumni firms were digital and ‘cloud’-based firms compared to three per cent in the control group.

Alumni firms are more diverse: Alumni firms ranged from internet sales to advanced engineering, corrosion control and ‘retro’ tourism. Control group firms were concentrated in fewer sectors, particularly health care and education.

Alumni firms are more likely to be resilient: 49.6 per cent of alumni firms said boosting sales was top priority in the downturn while only five per cent opted for internal cuts.

The Kingston findings came as a separate survey commissioned by Young Enterprise showed young people believe they are facing a bleak outlook for jobs.

The Opinium survey of 1,051 14-18 year olds found that 63 per cent agreed either with the statement “I am worried about getting a job in the future” or “I am terrified” about the prospect of not landing a job in the wake of the double-dip recession.

Dr Athayde said: ‘The evidence presented in this report demonstrates that Young Enterprise alumni are more likely than average to run their own business; be serial entrepreneurs and show resilience in developing strategies to cope with difficult times.

“The businesses they run are more likely to be innovative, limited companies, employ others and have a larger turnover than the typical small firm in the UK.”