An Energetic Contribution to Enterprise Education

Finton2The Duke met with the principals of the Gazelle Colleges in September 2012, Chief Executive Finton Donaghue reflects on what Royal support has meant for the group.

Here is a fact to consider. Every minute a new British company is born. In 2013, the UK will have created 500,000 businesses in a single year. It represents a seismic shift in the commercial landscape and it will be among the young especially that the consequences of these changes will be most keenly felt.

Our education model was built for a different century, a time when people might reasonably expect a job for life and where the role of educators was to essentially supply labour. Those days are gone. Today, we need to prepare young people to be more enterprising in their approach to life, to create an environment where wealth creation is a goal, employment outcomes maximised, and new business formation opportunities realised.

That is why we formed the Gazelle Colleges Group, a unique set of 20 colleges with the goal of transforming the lives of our students and communities to meet the challenges of a changing world of work. That means doing things differently.

In September 2012 the Gazelle Colleges Group were delighted to meet with His Royal Highness, The Duke of York, at The Made Entrepreneur Festival in Sheffield. This festival, the foremost festival of entrepreneurship within the UK, brought together entrepreneurs from all over the country and through Gazelle we brought over 300 students into an environment which stimulated their thinking and reinforced the value they placed on the creation of their own businesses and on the value of enterprise.

The Duke of York spent time with our 20 Principals working on ideas to inspire entrepreneurial outcomes for young people. It was an inspiring conversation and has led directly to a series of important initiatives including the potential of The Duke of York Entrepreneur In Residence Scheme that would be realised by The Duke’s entrepreneur task force, The E20.

Since then we have worked extensively with The Duke’s senior team to develop ideas to improve the opportunities for young people through more engagement in social enterprise, commercial learning and skills development.

In the late autumn The Duke of York convened a meeting bringing together the Director General of The CBI, Fintan Donohue Chief Executive of Gazelle, Lord Kenneth Baker with a focus of UTCs and some key people engaged in the advancement of both studio schools and UTCs across the country. This small round table conversation brought elements of hitherto separate initiatives together into one conversation. As a direct result of that conversation I was able to pursue dialogue with the CBI and with John Cridland, the Director General in particular, about a closer alliance between the aspirations of the Gazelle Group for T-shape learning and enterprise and the desire of the CBI articulated in the round table discussion for greater breadth in student output to support the broader innovative needs of employers across the country. There was also a meeting of minds around the scaling of all of this activity to include significantly more students in the opportunity.

On May 14th The Gazelle Colleges Group convened a significant conference at the RSA in London. The conference brought together the CBI, Ofsted, local economic partnership representatives, the Association of Colleges, 157 Group, entrepreneurs from across the UK and other key stakeholders into a significant dialogue around the need for more entrepreneurial approaches to the delivery of education and learning across the tertiary sector. This ground breaking conference which was the first of its kind in the UK brought significant accolade from sector representatives and from all those in attendance. The BIS department had a role in helping to shape the conference and they remain keen to build on its output. The conference report focusses on the advancement of commercial learning companies and colleges, the development of mentoring and support from entrepreneurs and the engagement of industry in a practical dialogue around college output. The Duke of York has already committed to helping us to move this agenda forward through a new roundtable in the autumn, and most importantly, through action that will create impact for young people.

The 14th May event was a direct consequence of the energetic contribution to enterprise education from The Duke. It would quite simply not have happened without him. His ability to convene a wide range of strategic stakeholders, to amplify discussions in the public domain and his passion for the task at hand has been invaluable in creating a sense of common purpose.

That commitment enables our colleges, ones engaged in the advancement of entrepreneurship, to reach industry and key policy makers in a way that would not otherwise be possible. The effect? The transformation of the lives of thousands of students across Britain, preparing them to realise the immense and emerging commercial opportunities of a changing world.

Fintan Donohue, Chief Executive, Gazelle

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