New research from UKBF (UK Business Forums) highlights gaps in support for thousands of entrepreneurial 16 to 18-year-old school leavers.

More than 45,000 school leavers aged between 16 and 18 years started their own businesses in the last three years, yet current legislation prevents thousands of them from reaching their full potential. New research from UKBF (UK Business Forums), the UK’s largest online small business community, has shown that 45,797 young people aged between 16 and 18 either registered as self-employed or formed their own limited companies between 2018 and 2020.

Despite UKBF’s encouraging research figures about young entrepreneurship, released during National Careers Week 2022, the teaching of important practical skills for starting and running a business is still not a core element of current careers education in UK schools. Many of these young people register as self-employed because post-16 academic education is not the right path for them and adequate work-based learning opportunities are not available.

Molly, owner of Molly-Ann Equestrian, started her own business at 16 years old after being told she was over-qualified for an apprenticeship and too young to start full-time employment. Molly says: “I was home educated and could sit my GCSEs and equine exams before I was 16. This meant registering as self-employed was my only option. I was told I was overqualified for an equine apprenticeship but, because of my age, I couldn’t get a full-time job either. There were no other options available to me for two years until I turned 18. Whilst it was the best decision I made, at the time it was hard knowing where to go for help because there’s so little information available for people like me who are stuck in between full-time education and the rest of their careers.”

Young people in England can only leave school at the age of 16 if they are continuing in full or part-time education, or work-based learning, however, academic learning is not always the right route for everyone.

Richard Osborne, CEO, UKBF says: “Our research has shown that every year, over 10,000 young people under the age of 18 choose to start their own business, however, the current education system does to appropriately equip them with the necessary skills for business success.”

“Supporting entrepreneurship is a glaring omission in our education system and, whilst the small business sector is often referred to as “the backbone of the UK economy”, a step-change is needed to ensure our future business leaders are appropriately supported and their entrepreneurial talents are nurtured from a young age.”

Osborne continues: “There is no reason why nurturing an entrepreneurial mindset can not happen symbiotically with developing academic excellence. Yet, today, young people seemingly must choose one path or the other and that must change.”

“In my experience as an entrepreneur and education mentor and adviser, I see that many of the positive skills and attributes needed to be a successful business owner, such as risk-taking, overcoming failure, and questioning the status quo, are frequently seen as negative traits in the classroom. This needs to change for the future of British business.”

UKBF is the UK’s most active online community for small and micro-business owners offering a hub of advice, resources and expert support for anyone starting and growing a small business.