Napoleon said we were a nation of shopkeepers, unfit for war against France, but are we in fact emerging as a nation of entrepreneurs, ready to take on the world?
At a recent breakfast held by the Non-Executive Directors Association David “Two Brains” Willetts, the Conservative MP for Havant and Shadow Secretary of State for Universities and Skills, said that fewer younger people were getting jobs, whilst older people were being retained by their employers for longer. At the younger end, he highlighted a lack of joined up thinking in the education system, an obsession with league tables and a lack of apprenticeship opportunities. At the older end, employment law and the cost of providing pensions were contributory factors.
But Julie Meyer, founder of Entrepreneur Country, said that she hardly knew anyone under 30 who wanted to work for somebody else. This is supported by a recent survey, where 38% of the 2,000 respondents (both old and young) said that they do or plan to run their own business at some stage in their career.
The fact is that the younger generation, the so called “Generation Y”, is different. They are tech-savvy, multi-tasking, confident and ambitious. They are also achievement oriented with a strong and healthy commitment to family and lifestyle.
So is this the new paradigm? Are we entering a new age of individual capitalism, where people take responsibility for their own futures, rather than trusting in employment or, ultimately, the State?
It is to be hoped that whoever wins the next election will understand the fundamental changes that are happening in our society. It is these that must drive our education and skills agenda, encouraging entrepreneurship and providing both vision and purpose to future generations.