Education and Training for the Self-Employed

It is vital to better integrate and embed enterprise and entrepreneurialism into the national curriculum in schools, while improving the visibility and quality of enterprise and self-employment content within careers advice in Further Education institutions.

Currently, enterprise features inconsistently in primary and secondary education institutions. Careers advice across the board also contains little enterprise content – changing this that would be invaluable to the many students wanting to start their own business.

Our policies

The self-employed and the small businesses they operate are key to the UK’s flexible economy and workforce. Support and guidance should be offered throughout the lifespan of a self-employed individual, from school when their business is still an idea to the time when their business is up and running. We therefore propose three key policies.

  • Integrate enterprise and entrepreneurialism throughout the entire school curriculum at secondary and sixth form level.
  • Ensure that Further Education institutions and universities recognise and promote self-employment in careers advice and offer enterprise modules on courses that typically produce large numbers of self-employed graduates.
  • Provide sufficient support and mentoring for the self-employed once their business is off the ground, with training for new skills made tax deductible in the same way it is for employees.

Why is this an issue?

Self-employment is seldom presented as a real option for students. Research conducted by IPSE in collaboration with ComRes in 2014 showed that out of 1,143 freelancers surveyed just 1% found out about self-employment through information provided at school or college and just 2% found out about it through information provided at university. This is particularly worrying, especially since there has been a surge in the number of young people becoming self-employed; 191,806 people aged 18-29 were self-employed in 2013 compared with 139,031 in 2008, a 38% increase. With enterprise skills and advice not effectively taught in schools, colleges and universities, young people are entering the world of business under-skilled.

Students are not exposed to the workings of small businesses and self-employment. Currently, the national curriculum and work experience schemes offer insufficient opportunity for young people to gain practical experience within enterprise education. This is particularly worrying, as research conducted by the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) found that learning by doing, through placements or projects, increases the outcome and impact for students in enterprise and entrepreneurialism education courses.  Consequently, young people entering self-employment are at a huge disadvantage and lack simple skills such as filling their tax returns correctly.

Transferable, life and personal skills are seldom covered on the traditional curriculum. Enterprise modules comprise many transferable skills, such as teamwork, critical thinking and communication skills.

The quality of careers advice varies massively between schools. Schools are now expected to supply their own careers service, but are not given extra funding to do this. As such, the quality of careers advice varies massively between schools. A 2012 Ofsted study found just 1 in 5 schools offer pupils sufficient careers advice. A new government body that will establish links between employers and schools is a positive step, but without an accountable body to ensure consistency, quality of careers advice will vary disproportionately between rich and poorer areas.

The notion of self-employment is changing. Self-employed workers comprise workers across an increasing number of sectors. Alongside vocational courses which traditionally produce a number of self-employed graduates, there has been high growth in freelance artistic, media and literary occupations –from 152,205 in 2008 to 273,650 in 2013, an increase of 80%. This group includes the most freelancers and also has the highest percentage of freelancers relative to all those in employment (61%). These courses address little if any enterprise content however, with graduates entering self-employment with no experience or knowledge of running their own business. Consequently, courses which produce the most self-employed or freelance workers currently have little or no enterprise content. 

Entrepreneurship is vital for economic growth. Education of entrepreneurialism and enterprise will directly benefit the economy. Freelancers contributed £95 billion to the economy in 2013. This can best be achieved through educating people from a young age about enterprise and entrepreneurialism and supporting them whilst their businesses are in their infancy.

The self-employed have less access to support structures. Mentoring schemes, careers advice and business support advice is often targeted at larger businesses or is less readily available to the self-employed, making them much less likely to benefit from such advice.

What IPSE is doing

IPSE is continuing to work with the Government to ensure that the education system reflects the needs of tomorrow’s independent professionals. We are also conducting extensive research into the training needs of existing independent professionals.