TALENTED students have been testing their business acumen to the maximum in a competition designed to hone entrepreneurial zeal and prepare them for the future.
Sixth formers at Barnard Castle School tackled a Dragons’ Den meets the Apprentice-style challenge with the help of leading experts from industry.
The industry day was the culmination of a string of employability events aiming to prepare students for a future shaped by the ‘fourth industrial revolution’ of new technology.
Seven teams of students, each with a private sector mentor, were challenged to produce a business and marketing campaign centring on a new ‘grab-and-go’ snack targeting petrol pump shops.
They used their skills to design apps, TV and radio adverts and other marketing material, complete with financial forecasts and costings, which they then presented to a panel of judges – Penny Petroleum boss Dave Penny and its development manager Vicky Hennessy and Charles Atha, the director of personal injury lawyers Atha & Co.
Barnard Castle School’s deputy head (Head of Sixth Form) David Cresswell said: “The aim was for the students to appreciate that skills plus qualifications and work experience add up to employability.
“To spend a day with a business mentor and to receive expert feedback is a wonderful opportunity for them to consider where they are in that employability journey.”
Mr Cresswell said that in five years’ time about a third of the skills considered important today would have changed. Many jobs and roles would have disappeared while others that do not even exist now will be commonplace.
Mr Penny said: “The students came up with some great ideas and well thought out economics. They were topical, ambitious and connected with the brand. They showed good teamwork, produced strong marketing material and exhibited a brilliant use of social media.”
Mentor Erland Rendall, who runs Atorus business consultancy, said: “This has been a great opportunity for the sixth formers to look at life after school, taking them outside their comfort zone.”
Fellow mentor and businesswoman Jemima Harrison, of the Harrison Group, added: “It was fascinating assessing the personality dynamics of my group and watching their respective skills come to the fore. They were very entrepreneurial and creative and came up with some amazing ideas.”
Industry day co-ordinator Nick Connor said: “We are incredibly grateful to our mentors and judges for giving up their time to provide some invaluable help to the next generation of business minds.”