A new study has found that small businesses are playing an increasing role in supporting education in local communities, particularly for underserved students. The study, released by the Global Business Coalition for Education, examines businesses in 18 countries, highlighting the role small and medium enterprises play in supporting education and the innovative ways in which they are engaging their consumers in the cause.
SMEs, which represent 90 per cent of existing businesses, up to 70 per cent of jobs and 40 percent of country’s GDPs, are impacting millions of children through mentoring, tutoring, scholarships, support to afterschool programs, financial contributions, and pro bono support.
“Small businesses can have a big impact by being the bridge between education and employment and provide better opportunities for children and youth globally,” According to Justin van Fleet, Executive Director of the Global Business Coalition for Education.
The newly released report, An Untapped Force for Global Education: an exploration of small and medium enterprises, highlights many success stories from a sock retailer in the US and a gas supplier for households in Nigeria to a digital ticket broker in Australia and soap manufacturer in India, who every day are doing their part to improve education globally.
According to the report, while many small business leaders are eager to make a difference in their community, prepare the next generation for the future, attract young people to their line of work, or simply give back to the world, they often face challenges. The complexity of politics and actors often makes it difficult to know where to start or how best to invest in education.
The Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated the digital transformation in education and provides even more opportunities for business to get involved even as they see their own business models shifting to address to the new realities. As countries and communities look towards economic recovery, the report highlights how SMEs should be part of the solution to bridge the gap between education and employment. Through their knowledge, expertise, and connections with communities, SMEs can provide training and employment opportunities in their local communities or provide support to global education efforts.
To encourage more companies to support young people and make it easier for business leaders to make the most impactful decisions when investing in education, the report recommends easy steps to get involved, such as learning from other businesses’ experiences, working with your suppliers or client companies, or supporting out-of-school programs like sports or music classes.
On the back of the report, small business leaders are signing onto a global pledge to support education in their communities.
“We hope that this report inspires other small businesses leaders to find ways to support education for children in their community and strengthen public education,” van Fleet said. “It is good for young people and also good for business”.
Allegra Spender, CEO of Australian Business Community Network (ABCN), said its members want long-term partnerships with schools. She noted that SMEs seek to do good in the community but lack bandwidth to approach schools directly or to design effective programs. “It’s good to have an intermediary because educators and business managers are different so they can misunderstand or let each other down,” Spender said. “If businesses stick to what schools need, their value is huge. Our recent survey on what schools want from business showed that 90 per cent of them want to do more with business to help prepare young people for the future, supporting them to understand career options, raising and broadening aspirations, and providing a bridge of relevance for ‘why are we learning that subject.’”