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Inside Grant Thornton

Back to school: developing students’ business skills

Volunteers from our firm recently brought back our School Enterprise Programme. Find out how their intervention raised aspirations among students at partner schools in Birmingham and Manchester.

For the first time since March 2020, volunteers from our Birmingham and Manchester offices successfully delivered the Grant Thornton School Enterprise Programme workshop to 450 students in two schools respectively.

Research from The Institute for Employment Studies suggests 62% of young people feel the pandemic has had a negative effect on their confidence and made it harder to find work. Along with an interrupted education, this generation has also missed out on in-person school experiences, such as day trips to broaden their horizons. The inequality gap has also further widened for students from lower socio-economic backgrounds, making it even harder to enter the working world and sustain employment.

What is the School Enterprise Programme?

We're helping to redress the balance by sharing our business skills and knowledge with young people. We also have an opportunity to increase the visibility of our profession to emerging talent who may have yet to consider us. Since its inception, the Grant Thornton School Enterprise Programme (SEP) has engaged over 3,500 students with the aim of reaching 5,500 students by 2023.

This is how the SEP helps students:

  • addressing skills gaps so they can better manage the transition between education and work
  • developing soft skills, such as problem-solving, creativity and teamwork
  • raising aspirations among young people from lower socio-economic backgrounds to enable them to thrive in their future careers.
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The SEP nurtures students’ entrepreneurial mindsets and financial literacy abilities by encouraging them to create, pitch and run a micro-business idea. Our volunteers facilitate a one-day workshop, which combines basic business concepts with enhancing students’ understanding of how entrepreneurs in the developing world make a living. Students then invest generated business profits into a microfinance initiative like Lend with Care which lends funds to entrepreneurs in the developing world to build the capacity of their micro-businesses.

Managing the school relationship

With in-person school visits curtailed during the pandemic, colleagues from our Birmingham and Manchester offices proactively revived the SEP following a two-year break.

Public Services Advisory Associate Director Andrew Plumtree, based in our Birmingham office, manages the relationship with local school Shireland Collegiate Academy. He commented, “ Our Birmingham team took part in a training refresher where the sustainability team were able to brief volunteers on their roles and coordinate delivery with the school.

“I had an excellent day. It was well worth participating to see the students’ excitement when taking on the challenge of creating their own microbusiness ideas. We've definitely discovered the next generation of entrepreneurs and business owners! We’re looking forward to delivering another programme in Birmingham soon”.


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Our SEP volunteer experience

While developing students' skills to raise career aspirations, our volunteers also develop and enrich their own abilities.

Commenting on her experience of organising SEP delivery at Mount St Joseph School with the Manchester office, Corporate Tax Assistant Molly Harris said, "The school was so excited to see us. The kids were on board with devising business ideas and developing new skills. They’ve been through a lot, so we did our best to boost their confidence. I remember a young girl who we were told was usually quiet and suffered from low self-esteem. Yet this experience lit a fire in her and she asked her peers great questions. Others too came up with fantastic ideas, like creating anxiety bracelets to manage stress during exams.

“It was a great opportunity to step out of my day-to-day role and develop my own skills. I was presenting in front of people who weren't clients, yet still a tough audience! Many of us came away inspired by the children's insights. You may be the reason that a child is inspired to change.”

Head of Tax Karen Campbell-Williams said, “I’m so proud of all our volunteers across the UK who were real ambassadors for our firm and shared so much experience and knowledge with the pupils.

“All the Grant Thornton volunteers had a fantastic day and the year seven pupils were truly brilliant. They took to the microbusiness task with incredible energy and enthusiasm. The programme is a great way to develop our own people's skillsets too and is very rewarding.”

For more information on bringing our School Enterprise Programme into your classrooms get in touch with our sustainability team.