CREATING ENTERPRISING YOUNG PEOPLE - SUMMER CAMPS FOR FUTURE ENTREPRENEURS?

Last week saw the beginning of the summer holidays for thousands of children across Wales.

But with the workforce changing considerably over the last twenty years and both parents working, this six-week break to become a large financial burden on hard-pressed families.

In fact, a recent survey showed that parents will spend an average of £1200, to keep their youngsters entertained during the six week break. This not only includes the cost of day trips during the holidays but also includes additional childcare whilst parents are working. In fact, this amount would be higher if nearly two thirds of parents did not turn to grandparents or friends for help.

And whilst the papers are full of “free things to do with your kids” articles, the inevitability is that most families will end up paying for activities over the next few weeks.

Sensing a commercial opportunity, various summer camp type activities have sprung up over the last few years in the UK. Following the US model, where 10 million children attend such camps annually, they usually focus on outdoor and sporting activities.

However, there may be another summer trend emerging from America that may be of interest to not only parents, but also to policymakers.

“Entrepreneur-camps” are specifically geared towards getting young people interested in starting a new venture and there are a range of different approaches in ensuring that they acquire the skills and motivation to test their business ideas.

For example, programmes such as SuperBizCamp follow a traditional enterprise educational model where students experience real-world business activities through buying and selling events, role-playing sales, and sessions with entrepreneurial experts.

In addition, they have the opportunity to participate in a buying event at a local supplier and prepare a product to sell at a local venue.

There are also more specialised camps, such as Camp BizSmart, that focus on both product design and business planning to help prepare students to become “the creators of the world’s next great products”.

It gets students aged between 11 and 15 years of age to work in teams to solve real life business problems from innovative companies such as Google, Microsoft and Cisco.

As a result, not only do they learn vital business skills such as marketing analysis, assessing the strengths and weaknesses of the competition and compiling a financial spreadsheet, they also gain wider experience in other areas such ad leadership, public speaking, design thinking, and collaborative teamwork.

Therefore, whilst these entrepreneur camps are becoming increasingly popular in the USA, there are very few running in the UK and, as far as I can ascertain, none in Wales.

This is despite recent data showing that there is increased interest by young people in becoming their own boss.

For example, the recent Wales Omnibus Survey showed that 55 per cent of young people under 25 now have aspirations to work for themselves, a rise from 42 per cent in 2004.

With youth unemployment continuing to be a major headache for politicians, surely this idea of an intensive period of activity could be an option in getting young people fired up for starting their own business?

Indeed, with the Welsh Government already committed to embedding an entrepreneurial culture through their Youth Entrepreneurship Strategy, there could be an opportunity for Wales to begin the ball rolling on this type of initiative to ensure that our young people are given an opportunity to realise their entrepreneurial potential.

And I am sure that many parents in Wales would welcome the opportunity to give their children something worthwhile to do during the summer holidays especially if it could potentially help them to become the next Richard Branson or Anita Roddick.

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