Bradford Council: Young People’s Entrepreneurial Support Research

Bradford Council commissioned a piece of research on entrepreneurial support for young people in Bradford district, with the aim of understanding what appetite there is amongst them to start their own business or to become self-employed and how support might be best delivered to ensure there is an inclusive, accessible offer for them.

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The challenge

With more than 25 per cent of the population under 18 in Bradford, young people are a strength for the district. Equipping the district’s young population with the skills and confidence to succeed is identified as a priority in Bradford’s Economic Recovery Plan.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, young people’s claimant rate in Bradford District (as a percentage of 18-24 year old residents) was among the highest in the country and rose faster than that of the overall national claimant rate from 7.8 per cent in March 2020 to 14.9 per cent in September 2020. This is compared with 4.8 per cent to 9.4 per cent in Yorkshire and the Humber and from 4.3 per cent to 9.3 per cent across the UK (data source: Nomis Claimant Rate 18 to 24 years In July 2021 the claimant rate for 18-24 years in Bradford District was 13.1 per cent significantly above the Yorkshire and the Humber average of 7.4 per cent and the UK rate of 7.1 per cent.

Recent mapping of enterprise support in the district identified that there are local, regional and national programmes for young people such as the Princes Trust, College course curricula, an Impact Hub and support programmes for some University of Bradford students. However further research was required into whether there are gaps in the provision of support, the appetite for, and awareness of starting a business and any barriers experienced by young people in setting up a business.

The solution

As a part of the LGA’s Economic Growth Advisers programme, Crellin Consulting were commissioned to carry out a piece of research which comprised surveying a number of key stakeholders. 94 young people were surveyed via online surveys and through face to face engagement routes in University of Bradford, Bradford and Keighley Colleges and in supported programmes. Local stakeholder engagement was also undertaken with 23 professionals in the University, colleges, local organisations as well as council colleagues involved with supporting young people.

Desktop research into young entrepreneurial needs and support was also undertaken. A summary of the research findings are:

  • The complexity of support for young people at a local, regional and national level makes it difficult to navigate. Establishing a local partnership to better coordinate and collaborate on the entrepreneurial ecosystem of support for young people is recommended.
  • There are particularly gaps at the front end of the entrepreneurship journey, at the awareness and aspiration raising stage. 
  • There are entrepreneurial young people, however they may not self-identify as “entrepreneurs” if online trading or operating “side hustles”.
  • Some young business start-ups have not received formal support but have received support from friends and family.

The recommendations include:

  • More role models from diverse backgrounds and abilities are needed.  A mentoring scheme for young entrepreneurs from existing business networks with members reflecting the diversity of the district is being explored.
  • Engagement and support is best delivered in spaces young people already use, rather than expecting them to travel, such as colleges and young peoples’ organisations and centres.
  • Engage under-represented groups in entrepreneurialism to ensure inclusiveness but ensure language is accessible including avoiding use of the word “entrepreneurial”.
  • A personalised approach to supporting individual young entrepreneurs over generic support.  An existing enterprise coach programme offering universal, one-to-one support for adults could be extended to young people, delivered by coaches experienced in supporting young people.
  • Challenges and awards for young entrepreneurs to inspire and promote entrepreneurialism.
  • Accessible microfinance up to £1000.

How is the new approach being sustained?

The research will make the case for funding bids and the development of targeted enterprise support programmes to address under-representation in young entrepreneurs.

A working group comprising local business representatives from the existing Careers and Technical Education Board which has oversight of entrepreneurial pathways, and the Business Administration and Management employers Board is proposed to provide leadership and governance for taking this forward.

Lessons learned

The rise of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 prevented planned face to face engagement of young people, particularly in NEET (not in employment, education, or training) young people over the 2021/22 winter period when this research was conducted. However to mitigate against this, online surveys were carried out and 250 University of Bradford students were invited to respond to a survey, however the response rate was low at 4 per cent. This may have led to bias in responses to the online surveys with self-selection narrowing those who respond and the number of responses.

Nevertheless, a key learning that came out of this is the benefit of carrying out proactive consultations by going directly to young people groups and networks rather than arranging interviews and waiting for them to respond to interview invites. Although the restriction during the consultation period restricted these arrangements, it has informed the approach that the council can carry forward in the future.


Jane Bilous, Growth & Innovation Programmes Officer: [email protected]