For many of us, the world revolves around our favourite football team; the anticipation of Saturday afternoon followed by (in my case) the usual crushing disappointment of a defeat by Saturday evening!
Now, I am sure a number of us are familiar with the ever-prominent recruitment/transfer market in football; players moving clubs for obscene fees, significant involvement from various agents, sign-on fees, goal bonuses, appearance bonuses, naming rights, sponsorship rights, sell on clauses, injury clauses, relegation clauses, even clauses for if you bite someone! It all seems a bit crazy, and in the last few years it seems to have gone even further. With the ever more mobile and social media-oriented world in which we live in it is now possible for football clubs to have some highly sophisticated scouting methods. This has in turn lead to many top clubs signing ‘players’ as young as 6 or 7 for their youth teams with the hope that 10 or even 12 years down the line they will play for the club’s 1st team. And these investments are not cheap; even at such a young age a club needs to be compensated, contracts need to be drawn up, families moved (quite often between continents!) and acclimatised.
Now, investment in youth is no new thing in the world of sport. It should, in theory, be more cost-effective spending relatively small amounts in training youth players than spending the vast sums of money required to purchase a seasoned professional for instant success. There is of course a risk associated with both strategies – understandably far greater with the youth investment one would think – but with the increasing investment in this area, and the ever younger players being recruited by the Barcelonas and Real Madrids of this world, do they think they have cracked the code!?
What has this got to do with the ‘real world’?
The vast majority of recruitment is seen between what we would consider seasoned professionals; individuals with both the talent and significant, relevant experience in a particular field. At the very least, recruitment fees come into play when recruiting talented university graduates with specific relevant skillsets. But are companies missing a trick? Of course, a number of large multinationals have ‘academies’ like most major sports teams to nurture talent, although this at the very earliest happens after secondary school for those aged 17+, and it is also location dependent. Surely it is only a matter of time before we see, for example, the finance world go the way of football, where they start to identify its talent of the future far earlier – especially given the ever-competitive, ever more mobile global job marketplace.
Now, I am not suggesting just yet that the likes of J.P. Morgan or IBM should be plucking children out of primary school and sending them off to their academies, but maybe the precedent laid down by the crazy world of football has some legs, with a twist.
We are already seeing business representatives going into schools, directing the future curriculum and working with the government to steer the education of children to be relevant to the jobs of today and the future. Now this doesn’t come without some concern; it is important after all that the youth of today is given the opportunity to explore all avenues and we are always told that the breadth of learning is paramount to providing a well-rounded national community. By involving some businesses there is always a concern of bias; over-weighting of curriculum in favour of a particular industry, maybe even in favour of a specific business.
Such corporate influence may be controversial, and I think we are some years away from the IBM Primary School, or English lessons brought to you by Unilever, but it would undoubtedly lead to a greater sum of money for governments the world over to invest in education; but as ever how such money is spent and whether it is without influence will ultimately have the deciding factor on the success of the future employability of today’s children.
Of course failing all of this, perhaps we will see a time when as soon as a CTO, CEO or CFO has a child they are signed up for the business (if following the Real Madrid method is anything to go by!)