Business mentors help students tackle real-life problems
On Wednesday the 19th of October a group of twenty-two Year 11 and 12 students at Bradley Stoke Community School took part in their first business mentoring session of the Community-Apprentice competition with volunteers from Highways England, the organisation responsible for maintaining and improving England’s motorways and major A roads.
The mentors have generously agreed to support the students at key points in the ten-month programme, which, like the TV series The Apprentice, requires students to demonstrate personal qualities whilst working in teams to manage their own projects. In this case, however, the students will be competing to see who can make the biggest positive impact on their community, rather than the most profit.
Tackling real-life problems
The programme, which has recently been recognised by the Department of Education as an effective model for employer engagement, inspires students to develop their employability skills while tackling real-life problems.
Students can tackle whatever issues matter most to them, but they have to reach consensus within their team about what that is. There are three teams taking part at the school; one has chosen to focus on community regeneration, another to do something about eating disorders and the final team wants to tackle gender discrimination in sport. In the first mentoring session, mentors heard why the teams had chosen these issues and reviewed their initial project ideas, providing advice on effective project planning.
Laura Freemantle (Regional HR Manager), one of the mentors said, “It was great to meet the students last week, we were really impressed with their enthusiasm, particularly in the team exercise. As mentors, we are looking forward to finding out more about the teams’ community projects and exploring ways in which we can use our experience to help them develop core skills that they can put into action when they enter the Dragons Den!”
Developing employability skills
The competition requires students to develop and, crucially, evidence four key skills; teamwork, resilience and problem solving, organisation and communication. In the first mentoring session, mentors provided students with examples to demonstrate how valuable these skills are in their own jobs. They then supported the students to each set a goal for which skill they would like to improve most and how they can do this during the programme.
Throughout the Community-Apprentice competition, teams take part in inter-school challenges. The first of these, the Film Challenge, has just taken place and saw students develop teamwork and communication skills by producing a two minute film explaining why their issue matters in a single take! The next challenge, the Pitching Challenge, will require the teams to work with their business mentors to develop a pitch based on their project idea before they face a panel of ‘Dragons’; leaders in the local business community, in December. This will be an opportunity for the students to gain the confidence and skills needed to get their ideas across, standing them in great stead for the future.
Above - One of the teams completing the first challenge, the Film Challenge.