Jane Walton, FSB Education and Childcare Policy Chair

Blogs 5 Sep 2022

We sat down with Jane Walton, FSB Education and Childcare Policy Chair, to learn more about how she’s helping small businesses and employers to engage with education providers.

Jane Walton is a social entrepreneur, mentor and teacher, and currently volunteers as FSB’s Education and Childcare Policy Chair. Jane has over 20 years of experience working in the public, private and charitable sectors. Specialising in mentoring, training, education and business development, Jane works with organisations and individuals to realise their potential. She is a qualified teacher and trainer, a school governor, a Fellow of the RSA and CIPD, a chartered librarian and an Honorary Fellow of the Institute of Enterprise and Entrepreneurship.  

Tell us about your business journey. What inspired you to work in this industry? 

Looking back on my career, I realise that I have always been a social entrepreneur, teacher and mentor. It is only in the last 12 years that I have found a way to be self-employed and do this. I started life as a librarian and soon got involved in mentoring students, some of whom were looking to become freelancers in the cultural and creative sector.  

I then moved into local government supporting local elected members in their research. This was my opportunity to make a difference when it came to informing and influencing policy-making. The next move combined both my previous roles in that I was supporting individuals and influencing policy in the cultural sector.  

It was at this stage that I realised that the alternative to employment could be self-employment, particularly for those who were being made redundant. I started to develop my skills and knowledge in order to support people making the transition. This experience resulted in me heading up a national charity in the Yorkshire region, promoting enterprise and self-employment to young people. I had to then practice what I preached when the change of government in 2010 led to the withdrawal of funding from the charity and my redundancy. 

As part of my role in the cultural sector, I had always engaged with education and found opportunities for my team and myself to make a difference. Initially, this was with The Prince's Trust as a business mentor. I then become a business advisor with Young Enterprise and eventually regional chair. 

How can small businesses benefit from engaging with schools and colleges? 

In my new role as a self-employed consultant, I was advising regional government bodies, businesses, schools and colleges on ways to develop an engagement that would benefit both the employer and the student. I recognised the benefits from my own experience which included understanding the needs of young people, spotting talent and making a difference in my own community. I could also identify with the barriers of time and opportunity.  

One of the most significant pieces of work I undertook was for Leeds City Region Local Enterprise Partnership to pilot an enterprise adviser network. This was then rolled out and aims to provide engagement with business at a strategic rather than operational level. I became one of the first enterprise advisers in the country and still do this today. 

What advice would you give to a small business looking to get involved with education providers? 

As an FSB member, you can make a difference by offering to go into schools and speak to students, to inform, inspire and connect them. Organisations like Inspiring the Future can help to identify opportunities or a direct approach to a school through the enterprise adviser can be made. 

My role at FSB means that I am able to hear from members, education providers and government departments about the needs they have and how they want to improve access to education, which enables students to enter the world of work and/or business. There needs to be an infrastructure that supports this and the Careers and Enterprise Company is making progress to create networks of schools and enterprise advisers and to develop an employer standard that will inform this work.  

How can we inspire the next generation of entrepreneurs? 

Today I spoke to two FSB members who are in their 20s and couldn’t recall any education or information being made available to them at any stage of education about self-employment and starting a business. There is no universal offer as there used to be for young people to experience employment and business. FSB is there to support its current members and we need to ensure we support the creation of the next generation of entrepreneurs. 

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