Thursday, 13 March 2008

PM helps launch enterprise academy

You might remember from my book, Tycoon, that I’ve held a long-time ambition of shifting the boardroom to the classroom.Peter Jones with Gordon Brown

Well, I’m delighted to announce that the National Enterprise Academy (NEA) will be opening its doors to pupils next year.

What’s more, my ambition for training the next generation of entrepreneurs has been welcomed by a range of major businesses together with the Prime Minister, who’ll be including it as one of his priorities in the Government’s new Enterprise Strategy.

I was grateful that Gordon Brown, the Chancellor, Alistair Darling, and the Business Secretary, John Hutton, could join me earlier today in announcing the launch of the academy at an event at Swanlea Business and Enterprise College in east London today. You can watch the action here.

The NEA will have its headquarters in the south-east, and will expand quickly to include a centre in Manchester, then expand elsewhere in the country.

It will accept its first 16 to 19-year old students from September 2009 after the completely new course in entrepreneurship has been rigorously tested, including being put through its paces in a unique ‘live’ test with a sample group of students early next year.

The academy’s mission is to be a catalyst for cultural change in the UK, encouraging and stimulating more entrepreneurial activity – as well as providing young people with the skills and confidence to aim higher and be more successful in relation to enterprise in the workplace or starting their own businesses.

Why am I doing it? Well, I believe there’s a stark difference in the entrepreneurial mindset between the UK and the US.

Here, we tend to take a ‘can I?’ approach whereas in the US the ‘I can’ belief is instilled from an early age.

If the UK economy is to continue to grow, we need to create the right learning environment for all our children, where their talents can be developed so they can go out into the workplace or business and prosper.

I am delighted to have achieved such strong support for my academy and I applaud and appreciate the Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s personal interest and action in helping me get it off the ground.

As an entrepreneur, when you really want to make something happen, there is a tendency to go it alone when pursuing opportunities.

But for the NEA to deliver a lasting positive impact, I value the chance to work closely with the Department for Business and Enterprise and the Regional Development Agencies and other public bodies and other organisations which have an interest in the area of enterprise education and business support.

As I mentioned, I’m grateful that a number of big businesses and other organisations have also given their backing to the NEA.

Andy Bond, Chief Executive of Asda, told us: “I think a National Enterprise Academy that is giving teenagers a talent toolkit for entrepreneurialism is a fantastic idea.  Softer skills that are more aligned to the workplace such as communication and problem-solving are vital for a front-line customer facing business like ours, and I personally can’t wait to meet and interview its first crop of qualified students.”

And Bill Murphy, Managing Director, BT Business said: "We applaud Peter Jones’ National Enterprise Academy concept with its focus on unlocking the entrepreneurial talents of the nation’s young people, and we look forward to working with the future generation of innovative employees and businesses it aims to encourage.”

Professor Michael Luger, Dean of the Manchester Business School at The University of Manchester, said: “The National Enterprise Academy plan could not be better conceived or better timed.  16 to 18-year-olds are a tremendous potential source of innovation in society.  Peter's approach - to put these young people into a learning environment with working entrepreneurs-  will likely generate some commercial opportunities, but as important, help the students appreciate what further education can do for their careers.  We have been talking to Peter directly about how Manchester Business School can work with him as part of our own enterprise leadership ambitions, especially as the future plans for the Academy include the establishment of a base in the North West.”