Are you someone interested in starting your own business? Are you interested in entrepreneurship or joining the ranks of business leaders when you grow up? Do you dream of being self-employed or offering the world a service through your start-up? If so, Young Enterprise may well help you to gain the business experience you need whilst still at school.

Aimed at 15-19 year olds as an enrichment qualification for which to work alongside your conventional secondary school qualifications, Young Enterprise gives you the practical experience that will help you to start a business and to grow it into something amazing.

So, if you have a great business idea – and if you are not interested in something like the Duke of Edinburgh Award – check out Young Enterprise and become an entrepreneur. It’s exciting, hands on, and will give you the skill set and experience to start a successful business of your own.

However, as we are looking at Young Enterprise in a series on Extracurricular Activities to Boost Your Uni Application, we need to address that crucial question: does it actually look good on a UCAS form?

We’re going to be answering that question – and see what the Young Enterprise programme involves in general – in this article.

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What is Young Enterprise?

Young Enterprise is a programme that has been running since 1963. Over the near sixty years until now, over a million young people have been involved in the programme, learning the skills it takes to run a business and proving to themselves that they have what it takes to be an entrepreneur.

Those involved in the programme are required, in groups, to design, establish, and run a real business for up to a year. You and your partners will need to come up with business ideas, plan how to start up, raise capital, and manage the day-to-day processes of the business.

That means designing and making your product or service and then selling it to customers. You’ll be doing this at special trade fairs organised specifically for this purpose. Then there are things like paying taxes to round off the experience.

Whilst it all sounds fairly full on, you will be supported along the way by small business owners or other people with experience in the field of running a business.

What Does Young Enterprise Involve?

Rather than an award, like the Duke of Edinburgh, Young Enterprise works more like a competition. Groups compete to be given the title of UK Young Enterprise Company of the Year. And, having earned that, they can enter the European finals too.

The YE companies can have involve as many as 32 different students, but different student companies can run from the same school. This means that as many different companies can exist as you have different business ideas – however, each centre needs to be in touch with enough entrepreneurs to volunteer to support each business.

From twelve weeks to a year can be given to Young Enterprise – depending on you the student or your institution’s timetable.

Do You Get a Qualification for Young Enterprise?

A common confusion among students online is whether or not you can get a qualification for participating in Young Enterprise. The answer to this really depends on your school, college, or institution – and the decisions that they ultimately make about the organisation of the course.

A qualification is not guaranteed for participation in Young Enterprise. If you win the UK competition – or even the European one – that might count more to you and to future employers than a qualification. Meanwhile, some schools run the programme without linking it up to any formal certification.

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OCR Certificates

The exam board, OCR, have started to offer formal qualifications in Young Enterprise, however. These come in two levels, Level 2 and Level 3, which differ in the amount of time taken and the amount of value they have.

The Young Enterprise Company Programme, outlined above, is recognised as a contributing element in the OCR qualifications. However, you will have to sit an exam at the end of the course too. At the end, you will receive a Certificate in Young Enterprise.

What are the Benefits of Doing Young Enterprise?

Regardless of the qualification per se, you’ll find lots of benefit in doing Young Enterprise. If you have any interest in being an entrepreneur, attending business school, or being involved in self-employment, it will give you the skills that you need – as well as a taste of what the world of work is actually like.

But you don’t need to be determined to get into the Harvard Business School, or to be the next Mark Zuckerberg with his entrepreneurial spirit, to enjoy or find benefit from Young Enterprise. Simply put, it can be fun, it can be a good, refreshing – but also actually helpful – break from your mainstream education.

Do I Need to be Interested in Business?

You’ll learn a lot too, and we’re not just talking those that you need for specific business success. You can have no interest in business models, business growth or business planning to get a lot out of Young Enterprise. It can be an opportunity to explore your creativity, develop your confidence, and to feel the freedom of being your own boss. Business is not all start-ups, venture capital, and creative destruction.

The skills that are typically associated with business can be helpful for other parts of life. A business pitch is not just for entrepreneurship and Dragon’s Den; it’s a skill you need no matter what sort of work you are in. Many business skills are the same.

So, no, you don’t need to be interested in starting a business to benefit. You’ll learn public speaking, how to interact confidently with strangers, and learn the important adult skills of tax, financial management, and design too!

Do Universities Care about Young Enterprise?

A question that gets into the minds of everyone when they are in sixth form is ‘will x, y, or z help me to get into university?’. Or, even more bluntly, ‘do universities even care about this?’.

Whilst the answer for something like the Duke of Edinburgh is nuanced enough, it’s actually simpler than the answer for Young Enterprise. Because with Young Enterprise, it is really going to depend on what you are doing at university.

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For Business School?

Surely, it goes without saying that any school of business is going to be thrilled by the fact that young entrepreneurs – people who have experience of some sort of entrepreneurial activity, i.e. you – are applying.

In completing Young Enterprise, you will have serious evidence of direct experience of business activities. This is exactly what business schools, or university business courses, will want to see. They will acknowledge that you are not averse to a bit of risk-taking, enterprising, or commitment, and will see this as a good sign for your general fit for the degree-level business course.

If you have the OCR certificate, then great: business schools will only see that you attended a school that offered it. Giving your all to entrepreneurial success within your Young Enterprise experience is a much clearer characteristic of successful entrepreneurs than any certificate.

For Other Degrees?

Whilst business schools might be enthusiastic about your Young Enterprise experience, you shouldn’t take for granted that other university programmes will take any notice.

Just like the Duke of Edinburgh Award, it’s not good enough just to have done the programme: you need to be able to show admissions offices what it means to you, what it shows about your skills, and why it is relevant to the course that you are hoping to study.

Remember what we said in our other articles about what looks good on your university application. Something that is much less important for universities than you are told at school is the sheer number of extracurricular activities that you have studied.

Rather, universities want to see academic potential and commitment to your interests. So, if you can talk to a professor of literature about the importance for the discipline of social entrepreneurship and innovation – or if you can argue for the relevance of entrepreneurship education to a physics lecturer – then you are onto a winner.

As ever with extracurricular activities, it is always more important to say why you did something and to explain what effect it had on you than to just say that you did something. That’s not going to help you at all.

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