Theo Paphitis Prepares For #TNEC Finals
With just under a month to go until the final of the National Enterprise Challenge, pupils from over 100 schools across the UK are gearing up to take part in a one day pitch to judges.
Although only in its second year, the number of schoolchildren taking part has more than doubled – from 11,000 in 2013 to 25,000 so far this year – and on the first of July the winning teams from these schools will meet at Trentham Estate in Staffordshire to compete against each other in one of two challenges.
Theo Paphitis: I was dyslexic at school, so I wasn’t very academic, hence my passion for skills
Created by cousins, Ben and Michael Dyer, the challenge has drawn support from some of the UK’s top entrepreneurs, including Lord Sugar in 2013 and Theo Paphitis, entrepreneur and former Dragon on BBC’s Dragon’s Den, who will be on the judging panel this year.
Speaking to the Telegraph ahead of the final, and echoing the sentiments of fellow entrepreneur, Doug Richard, Theo Paphitis says that it is important to try and ready children and give them the skills necessary to cope with the pace of change that awaits them after education.
“We hear a lot, even this week, about the refocusing of the National Curriculum,” he says. “This sort of exercise needs to happen often, because the world changes fast and what was relevant and important at one point in time, isn’t going to remain constant. Entrepreneurship is just one thing that needs to be in schools.”
Having struggled academically at school, Paphitis says that a focus on the practical application of skills within an enterprise education would benefit all pupils, preparing them for the world of work, at a time when business leaders have said that school leavers are entering the workplace without the basic skills needed to succeed at entry level jobs.
“The wider the exposure that we give children of the real working world the better,” he says.
“[Enterprise education] is about problem solving but it’s also about understanding the commerciality of life after school, when you can’t access the bank of mum and dad.
“What does it take to earn an income? Do you just turn up somewhere for eight hours and at the end of the week you get a pay cheque? What’s the outcome of your toil? That’s what an education of this kind would show students.”
Speaking about the challenge, which his company, Ryman, are sponsoring this year, Paphitis says that there is currently an appetite for enterprise among young people, propelled by the continued success of programmes such as The Apprentice and Dragon’s Den.
“Business isn’t complicated, we complicate business,” he says. “These programmes show business in a relaxed, fun and understandable way, which is what appeals to a young audience.
“I was dyslexic at school, so I wasn’t very academic, hence my passion for skills,” he continues. “I would have excelled at a challenge like this. My talents may have been recognised, instead I was simply classed as ‘thick’
“I started work at 13, had three or four part-time jobs and learnt very quickly the values of work. These are the things that, if I am being critical, we still haven’t got right.
“We need to prepare children, not just for academia or for an exam result, but for the day-to-day commerciality and competitiveness of future life.”
Supporting the challenge, Michael Fallon, minister for business and enterprise, said initiatives like this support the Government’s drive to “build a culture of enterprise”.
“It’s important that young people gain first hand business experience to help them understand what it means to run a business and the skills needed to do it successfully,” he says. “This scheme will inspire even more young people to start their own business and encourage them to consider entrepreneurship as a career option.”
The challenge itself follows a similar format to that of Dragon’s Den – with pupils pitching their ideas to a panel of judges – and has separate tasks for years 7 and 8, and years 9 and 10.
Source – The Telegraph