The employability skills of students from Jane Austen College in Norwich have been put to the test during an Enterprise Day which saw local business mentors support budding young entrepreneurs to design and develop new product ideas before presenting them in front of a ‘Dragon’s Den’ style panel of judges.
Volunteers from local businesses including New Anglia LEP, Grant Thornton, Jarrolds, Norfolk County Council and Aviva, attended the event held as part of the School’s commitment to their careers programme. The volunteers were recruited by the school’s Enterprise Adviser, Emily Branch from Grant Thornton. The school has been supported by the New Anglia Enterprise Adviser Network and the wider Norwich Opportunity Area initiative which was launched in 2017 to improve opportunities for young people in and around Norwich.
During the Enterprise Day, groups of Year 7 students were tasked with creating a new soft drink product from concept to design, branding and packaging, while the business mentors offered expert guidance and advice, drawing on their real world experience to provide valuable input and encouragement.
At the end of the event, the 11-12 year olds pitched their finished ideas to a panel of mentors who provided feedback on their concepts and the business related skills they had used such as preparation, initiative, leadership, teamwork and communication.
Ella Roodkoo, a Year 7 Student at Jane Austen College who’s team won the Enterprise Day challenge, said: “I learned a lot of skills from Vitae Day, like finding out what people like and don’t like, and like finding out the costs. It was really nice to know the dragons and what they do. I’m really proud of myself for winning because I worked hard and I’m proud of my achievement”.
Josie Kielstra, Assistant Principal at Jane Austen College, added: “The year 7s all enjoyed themselves and got a lot out of the day. Students who wouldn’t necessarily ever consider themselves to be entrepreneurs or future business people were very excited to develop their own products and talk to representatives from Grant Thornton, Aviva, Jarrolds, Norfolk County Council, and the New Anglia LEP. We are very excited to work with these businesses again to continue to support our students with different career paths.”
The New Anglia Enterprise Adviser Network matches senior business leaders with secondary schools and colleges to increase student encounters with the world of work and support the development of employer engagement plans. The New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership’s (LEP) aims to have an adviser in every education establishment in Norfolk and Suffolk by 2020.
In 2017, Norwich was identified as one of 12 ‘Opportunity Areas’ in England to receive an equal share of a £72 million injection to deliver plans to build the knowledge and skills of local young people and provide them with advice and opportunities to progress.
Grant Thornton was one of a number of local businesses to sign up to the initiative as a ‘Cornerstone Employer’, working as part of the EAN to create mentoring and work experience opportunities for young people.
Emily Branch, assistant manager at Grant Thornton and New Anglia Enterprise Adviser, said: “It is so important that young people are equipped with the skills and confidence they need to make the successful transition from education to employment.
“Providing opportunities such as the Enterprise Day for students to engage with businesses at an early stage can really help support this process. It was a pleasure to take part in the event, to encourage the students to believe in their abilities and to see them develop through the process.”
Glen Todd, Enterprise Adviser Network Manager at New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership, said; ”The Enterprise Day was a huge success. Thanks to the hard work of staff at Jane Austen College and the time and commitment made by our volunteer Enterprise Advisers, the Students gained a real insight into product design, branding and marketing and presenting to their peers.
“Closer collaboration between schools and their students’ potential future employers benefits both sides. That’s why it’s our ambition to place an Enterprise Adviser from the world of business in every school in Norfolk and Suffolk.”