We often hear politicians call for more enterprise in an economy, but when we look at the needs of our economy the results are stark. Productivity is incredibly weak in the UK and because of slow-downs globally and the uncertainties around Brexit, there is likely to be more pressure on UK businesses to do more with less and do so in a more competitive global context. Improving productivity is about ‘skills’, investment and better processes: the skills needs of the UK underlines all of this.
The recent Industrial Strategy Council produced a research report into the ‘skills’ needs and mismatches in the UK. In many respects it tells us what we already know, that businesses struggle to recruit the skills they need from the workforce. Yet the picture is a bit more complicated. It’s not just that we do not have enough ‘coders’ but we are also seeing a lack of the transferrable skills which will support businesses to be more productive. Beyond what someone knows as a skill, the ability to use those skills in new ways, to adapt to the needs of an employer and even to be part of creating the changes needed are the sorts of skills, abilities and competencies which not only drive business, they also drive careers.
So where do universities and enterprise fit in? Firstly, within higher education, it is clear that approaches to learning and teaching, by their very nature, often encompass entrepreneurial learning. There are, and have been, pockets of good work in this area over a number of years. Yet as we know, the enhancement of these appropriate skills, knowledge, attributes and behaviours – which are necessary for transforming creative ideas into actions – are of ever increasing importance.
At Advance HE we believe that enterprise is of critical importance to all students. It is no longer just the reserve of business schools: the fast-paced changes of the labour market, the technological advances that echo the dawn of the fourth industrial revolution, the fact that career trajectories and pathways are changing and no longer dominated by the ‘nine-to-five’ life career choices all speak volumes to the need to address, change and prepare students for an ever-evolving world.
Indeed, the very enterprising ‘skills’ that have so often been left to the business school, (albeit slowly integrated into some areas of STEM) are just as important for Arts, Humanities and Social Science students. These graduates are just as likely to work in micro-businesses where enterprising skills are so often sought after. They are also more likely to have portfolio careers and have to navigate the ‘gig economy’; artists, musicians, consultants, designers, journalists – all of these roles require enterprising skills.
From our work with the sector it is clear there has been a real shift in focus and recognition that enterprise is to be much more widely recognised outside of the sphere of business schools. We have seen first-hand that there is much that disciplines can learn from each other in terms of how relevant competencies, behaviours and attributes are developed. For instance, we’ve seen that creativity is replete within music; risk and decision-making can be found within applied subjects, such as policing; and communication and presentation are absolutely core within drama and theatre.
Examples like this have influenced the thinking as we have worked with other sector agencies (EEUK, IOEE, ISBE, SFEDI and the QAA) in the development of the new Enterprise and Entrepreneurship Education Framework
The framework aligns with our core thematic areas for student success, providing a focus on enterprise and entrepreneurship education as a clear and distinct vehicle for enabling success; both during and beyond the educational experience. At Advance HE we believe that the framework will provide opportunities to support the changing nature of education into the next decade and to offer a distinct route to supporting student success.
In order to develop the conversation, we believe there is a need to focus on the learner, the educator and the institution – all of which must be aligned, but with an emphasis on developing and learning from educational best practice across the disciplines, where many of these activities are present, if not explicitly drawn out in their wider context.
Higher education providers need to be bold to ensure that enterprise and entrepreneurship education is embedded across all programmes. To create truly inter and transdisciplinary opportunities – to ensure that all such opportunities are available and accessible to all students and to create an organisational culture that is flexible and supportive to the changing world – a world that we expect our graduates to enter and succeed in.
Advance HE’s collaborative project Embedding Enterprise in the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences Curriculum is a shared project involving Advance HE, SFEDI, the UK Government-recognised Sector Skills Organisation for enterprise and business support, and higher education providers across the sector. The deadline to join the project is 20 December 2019.
Advance HE has developed the Enterprise and Entrepreneurship Education Framework in partnership with EEUK, IOEE, ISBE, SFEDI and the QAA, alongside a range of other collated resources and guidance to help institutions provide effective activities and experiences so that students can identify what is involved in being enterprising and entrepreneurial, helping them to navigate their future careers.