Entering a new year should be a time when people feel optimistic about the new opportunities that lie ahead for them. While this may be true for some, in Britain too many of our young people in particular are at risk of wandering under a perpetual cloud of pessimism, which threatens to rain down the same old depressing statistics: rising unemployment, rising crime rates and falling education standards. Khawar Mann looks at how we can bring out the best in Great Britain's youth.

While these problems cannot be reversed overnight, there is a possibility of reducing their impact on today’s youth by providing young people with mentors who can, at the very least, help them improve their sense of self worth; leaving them equipped to overcome the challenges an uncertain social and economic climate will throw their way.

In 2011, the Government heavily emphasised the importance of mentoring small business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs with the launch of its mentorsme scheme. This is viewed by policymakers and social commentators as a vital ingredient for a sustainable economic recovery. There is a major gap in this scheme, however as it only provides support to existing business owners; watering the petals but missing the root of the economy.

If we want sustainable long-term growth, the current generation of schoolchildren, many of whom are at

If we want sustainable long-term growth, the current generation of schoolchildren...will need additional mentoring to cultivate and harness their enterprise skills.
risk of unemployment, will need additional mentoring to cultivate and harness their enterprise skills. These skills can then be used to either set up their own businesses or simply improve their employability prospects. This is important because amidst the doom and gloom of news headlines we often forget that the recession is not the only cause of high unemployment amongst our young; many also have large skills gaps.

At HRH Prince of Wales’ charitable initiative, Mosaic, we provide such an opportunity through our Enterprise Challenge. Now in its fourth year, the challenge operates in over 60 secondary schools, involving 2,000 pupils across the country. Co-sponsored by the Apax Foundation and the Department for Communities and Local Government, it sends in volunteers, including professionals from multinational businesses, entrepreneurs and small business owners, to help children develop awareness and skills within finance, sales, marketing and strategy, all in a competitive environment. Vince Cable, speaking at the launch of the Enterprise Challenge in November recognised the importance of such initiatives, saying : “It can provide young people with a great platform on which to launch their career, giving them first hand experience of working alongside leading business experts.”

I believe encouraging entrepreneurship and inspiring young people about how creative business can be is potentially critical to the long-term success of our country, but we do not do enough of this, particularly in less advantaged schools. For example, recent research from Demos reveals that children from black and ethnic minority backgrounds are more likely to be interested in setting up their own businesses than white children, yet are more prone to failure as a result of lacking appropriate support and guidance. This is where mentoring schemes, such as the Enterprise Challenge, prove invaluable.

Regardless of background, one thing is true: young people - particularly the current generation - need and deserve the help of those who have travelled the education, entrepreneurial and employment paths before them. The young people I have encountered through the Enterprise Challenge are also in a position to teach their mentors a thing or two. Their energy and enthusiasm is infectious as they believe anything is possible. Sometimes seasoned entrepreneurs, professionals and small business owners can forget this.