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Jan Donaldson

Jan Donaldson

Young Enterprise NI

Today more than ever we are being excited or challenged by disruptive technologies, the first generation of iPhones was release by Apple in 2007 and only got the front facing camera for the “selfie” in 2010! We must embrace this technology. Creating a passion and entrepreneurial spirit is key to the success of the Northern Ireland economy and getting the benefit from the opportunities technology is creating.

To do this we must give our young people the edge, help them develop the skills that will lead to personal success and all them to innovate and create value both locally and globally. This has become more difficult with the demise of the Saturday job and yet when surveyed 75% of companies will state that work experience is a critical or significant factor in recruitment.

This is where the value of Young Enterprise is increasing year on year. The team has developed programmes and activities that help young people understand the skills they must develop for the world of work. The entrepreneurial spirit created in many of the young people through the programmes generates experiences and opportunities that many of them would not previously have imagined.

Self-confidence, resilience, problem solving, innovative thinking, goal setting, initiative and empathy are all skills that are developed and demonstrated in the various programmes and as we look to grow and move the Northern Ireland economy are essential for start-ups, SME’s or foreign direct investment.

But for Young Enterprise to continue to deliver this we need the business community to increase the time and resource it is prepared to give to developing our young people. In 2014 the UK Commission for Employment and Skills in conjunction with the TUC and CBI published the “Growth through People”. Two of the key recommendations were that education and employers should be better connected to prepare for people for work and success should be measured by a wider set of outcomes not just educational achievement. As I have volunteered and worked with the team at Regent House in Newtownards in the past few months there is no doubt they have developed skills for success and that entrepreneurial spirit.

Finally, as parents, we are the leaders, and we need to be supportive by allowing kids to make decisions and trying different ideas to fix problems. Entrepreneurs know experience is the best teacher and young kids benefit from it most as they develop skills for a successful life.

Mark Huddleston is currently Managing Director of King & Fowler UK Limited and jheSOLUTIONS Limited and has been NI Commissioner for Employment and Skills since May 2015.

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