Month: April 2016

Preparing young people for modern self employment

A definite change in the labour market has occurred since the 2008 economic crisis.

A large number of the full-time jobs lost since then have been replaced with, mainly, a new army of self-employed workers. In fact, a recent Self-Employment review for the Department of Business, Innovation & Skills written by the successful entrepreneur Julie Dean, put the total number of self-employed workers at 4.6 million, up 800,000 since 2008.

self employed pic1

This is clearly a trend in the labour market and one that should have implications for careers learning in schools.

Introducing the gig economy

What constitutes self employment though is changing. With Ebay having been established in the UK since 1999, the idea of using the internet to sell merchandise to supplement or even become a main source of income is not new. What is new in this burst of self employment is the use of online platforms to ultilise property or possessions and workers own time and skills. The rise in popularity for platforms such as UberAirBnB and Taskrabbit, not just for micro-entrepreneurs but also for consumers, is making waves beyond the LMI statistics. The disruption to established regulation structures threaten the status quo while, despite the positive image of the democratising and sharing benefits of such technology, it is becoming clear that it is those with the established capital that are able to make the most of these new arenas. All of this is making such an impact that the ONS is running to keep up by recalibrating how it measures how the nation is consuming goods and services because of it.

Wages and aspiration 

Another consequence of this new way of working is the impact on take home wages. Much of entrepreneurship education dangles the carrot of high success and the financial rewards that can follow from self employment to students but the reality of the labour market challenges those hopes.

self employed pic2

In fact, with the introduction of the National Living Wage, it is predicted that salaried workers at the lower end of the income spectrum will pull away from their self employed contemporaries.


Indeed, rather than be a sector of the work force that is seen as aspirational, self employment is fast becoming a tainted ‘brand’ of insecure and exploited workers on low incomes as the fears grow that firms will look for ways to sidestep NLW requirements. Perhaps this is one of the many reasons why young people are still resistant to the call to consider self employment as a viable route for themselves, instead preferring to aim for the security of a wage and steady employment. With young people’s debt burdens rising, this isn’t surprising and makes the task of persuading young people to consider self employment all the more difficult.

Tools schools use

Qualifications: GCSE Business studies is a staple offer of many schools Key Stage 4 curriculum with entries in 2015 up to over 96,000 students. The forthcoming revised GCSE specifications will increase their focus on e-commerce.

Programs: Bodies such as Young Enterprise offer a range of activities that can last across a term or a shorter period.

Their spin-off, Tenner Challenge, is an example of a shorter program. Tycoons in schools is a national competition spearheaded by Peter Jones CBE.

More individualised enterprise sessions can be organised through Future First and Inspiring the Future by having a clear brief for the event and tailoring the guests invited.

These, and many other resources, were included in Lord Young’s 2014 report “Enterprise for All.” The central pillar of that report, that students should complete an “Enterprise Passport” during their school years recording their employability and enterprise skill gains, is an idea that the Careers & Enterprise Company have been tasked with implementing and is likely to part of the forthcoming revised Government Careers in schools guidance.

This ‘passport’ will have to combat this negative trends in self employment in the Labour Market for students to aspire to arrive at positive destinations through entrepreneurship.