Young people are being deterred from starting up their own businesses because of a fear of failure, pressure to get a "steady job" and because there are too few young entrepreneur role models for them to follow, new research has suggested.
A study by UK campaign group Enterprise Insight has argued that the language of enterprise is stuck in the 1980s, that old-school entrepreneurs need to make way for the next generation and a rules-based educational system and hierarchical workplaces too often crush the enterprise spirit.
Young people generally had a real desire to make their mark in the world, said the organisation.
But outdated language and role models combined with fear of failure and the pressures to find a job – from parents, teachers and friends - were preventing them from making their ideas happen, it argued.
It has called for a fundamental shift in how policies aimed at increasing enterprising behaviour are developed.
There is too often an assumption, in policy terms, that young people lack enterprising qualities and therefore need to be directly managed to learn them.
Instead, policies needed to recognise that young people would be enterprising if they were encouraged to do so and were supported.
This meant improving or creating networks for young people that were focused on making their ideas happen and promoting role models, expertise and practical opportunities.
The organisation has also called for a national strategy for developing enterprise among young people.
Kevin Steele, Enterprise Insight chief executive, said: "The language and icons of 1980s enterprise culture now mean as little to young people as a Rubiks Cube or shoulder pads.
"Two decades after the last great enterprise boom of the mid-80s we are still using the same entrepreneurs to promote enterprise in 2005.
"It is not that there is nothing to learn from a Richard Branson or Anita Roddick, but the Enterprise Report concludes that young people are no longer inspired by these people in the same way as they are by successful entrepreneurs in their own community, or people their own age," he added.
The new generation of young people, hungry to make their mark in the world, were unclear about what "enterprise" meant to them, he suggested.
"Young people's culture has changed and we need to redefine 'enterprise' to be meaningful to their aspirations and motivations – rather than viewing it through a narrow and outdated lens," said Steele.
"The fear of failure and conveyor-belt education so common in the UK are creating a mindset that means young people are more inclined to play things safe rather than to look for opportunities.
"We need to create a culture where young people are actively encouraged to turn their own ideas into reality," he added.