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Plea to find tycoons of tomorrow

A group of Northern Ireland's top business leaders wants to see schoolchildren learning about starting a business.

The Women in Business Leaders' Forum wants Stormont to encourage entrepreneurship from an early age by including it in the primary school curriculum.

The Forum was set up by Women in Business Northern Ireland (WIBNI) to look at ways the group could contribute to the growth of the local economy.

Made up of leading business women such as Cathy McCory from Grafton and Tracy Hamilton from Mash Direct, the group agreed that a "progressive educational policy change" was fundamental to Northern Ireland's long-term economic success.

Chief executive of WIBNI Roseann Kelly said: "The Forum's view was that if entrepreneurship is to truly be at the heart of the economy, then this must be fully embedded in the education curriculum starting from entry at primary level."

The Global Entrepreneurship Monitor survey in 2009 found that the UK's Government, education system and culture was less conducive to entrepreneurship than the US and other European nations.

Some 2.3% of Northern Ireland's 18 to 24-year-olds were involved in starting businesses, compared to a UK average of 3.4%.

And more than 40% of people in Northern Ireland said fear of failure would put them off setting up a company.

Roseann said she recognised the Westminster Coalition was currently working to reverse these figures.

She said: "While there are a number of important enterprise education initiatives aimed at young people, these tend to be aimed at post-primary level."