Managing Director of Forman & Field, Lance Forman explains why enterprise should be put into education


- Credit: Carmen Valino - on shift

Last week, I was standing in line at Abokado waiting to buy a delicious box of sushi and I overheard a couple in the queue discussing their kids and in particular how difficult it’s going to be for them this summer as there are no jobs out there.

It got me thinking. No jobs out there? Is this a fault of the labour market, banks, companies, the government, or what? I came to the conclusion that it is actually the fault of our education system. There are an infinite number of jobs out there, services or goods which can be provided, tasks which others can do for us, or we can do for them, to make lives easier, but these are not necessarily jobs which are listed as vacancies in the job market.

The week previously I was at a seafood exhibition in Boston, where thousands of people were coming and going all day long and two enterprising young people had erected a comfortable old armchair on a box and were polishing shoes with people queuing up to have their feet massaged at $7.50 a go (£5). How hard would it be for someone to knock on the doors of all the office blocks in Canary Wharf and offer such a service in their grand marble lobbies?

The problem is our education system does not teach enterprise; it focuses exclusively on academia or vocational skills. Nothing wrong with that, but it’s all geared to developing skills so our children can get good jobs. What is our obsession with being employed by others? Why not teach the skills to start up one’s own business and instead learn how to employ others? Age is no barrier, as the 17 year old from Wimbledon who has just sold his App business to Yahoo for £18million has shown with five employees to boot.

Business is relatively simple. The essence of it is learning to sell something for more than it costs. That is it. The shoe polishing example shows that it doesn’t necessarily need a huge amount of capital or risk either. If you’re selling your own sweat and toil, you simply need to sell your time for more than it’s costing you to live. It doesn’t take long to work out what works and what doesn’t.

It’s much easier to survive a business failure which fails early in its development when you are young and there’s no question that the best way to learn in business is from one’s mistakes. When you look back at the careers of many successful entrepreneurs, you often find that fear of hunger or failure is the best driver of success.

Not only would an education system that gave emphasis to enterprise be great for the long term strength of our economy, but it would make our children realise that a weak job market is not necessarily a barrier to getting on in life. We have to learn to think outside the box. One of the ‘E’s in Education, Education, Education, should be Enterprise - at least one.