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Enterprising Route is to Go Your Own Way

DON'T talk to me about education for entrepreneurs. They're pouring far too much public money into it already - not counting the millions some well-known Scottish entrepreneurs are prepared to waste on it.

And all because far too few of our youngsters these days are prepared to attend the University of Life. They would rather "go to college", where they experience a soft-centred existence and end up just as unprepared for the real world. You'd get more enterprise out of a trained circus animal - at least a lion sometimes shows a bit of spark and turns on its trainer. Kids schooled to be entrepreneurs will simply turn out as managers. They'll know all the techniques but won't be able to take a decision without someone holding their hands.

Enterprise is about risk-taking. Wandering off to the local "tech" - if that's what they still call these places of shelter from the realities of the workplace - for a wee course, interspersed with liberal coffee breaks and vacations, is no gamble at all. We've heard about the shortage of plumbers and how they can command an hourly rate approaching that of a libel lawyer. But even that doesn't seem to have attracted a rush of applications to plumbing apprenticeships.

It's all part of the culture we have developed that values paper qualifications over finding out on the job. Mostly, however, we need our young people to climb out of their own indifference to take charge of their own futures. And this, from my experience, means being your own boss to as great a degree as possible.

Having left school at 16 with five O grades, I served an apprenticeship as an electrician with Glasgow City Council. No shortage of work there, believe me. But, after four years, it was time for something different. So, as travel is said to broaden the mind, I travelled. I was a waiter in Greece, an electrician in Zimbabwe. Everywhere, I absorbed other people's experiences, and gathered my own.

Back in Scotland, I took a job as a door-to-door salesman for cavity wall insulation. Then I sold photocopiers on a commission-only basis, cold calling. These are the tough schools of life, when you learn about other people's behaviour and your own abilities. My next sales job was a flop. But I learned that failure, too, can be a great instructor. After three years of little or no consequence or challenge, I took my life back into my own hands and left to join Lloyds Bowmaker as a senior account executive.

All this was, I now realise, providing me with the building blocks for starting my own business, to join the wealth-creating community. So, to any youngster not sure whether to go to college or get a job, I say: "Go out into the big wide world and experience life. Go abroad and come back a better person. Grind out the road miles and you'll have a better future. Discover yourself and no-one will take advantage of you. Be your own boss and never look back."

Brian Burns - Technology Leasing Ltd - http://www.technologyleasing.co.uk

Computer Hardware and Equipment UK Leasing Experts

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