Monday 28 April 2014
On Wednesday, young people from around the country will take part in the fifth Premier League Enterprise Challenge final at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills in London.
For the young people taking part in this year's Enterprise Challenge, the competition has provided them with a valuable learning experience whether they have reached the final or not.
One school who competed at the semi-final in Sunderland was Everton Free School, which provides an alternative learning experience for young people who are disengaged from mainstream education.
This was the second time the school was involved in the competition and were selected by Everton to represent the club at the semi-finals after the students impressed with their idea of using the experience and expertise of Everton in the Community to begin and expand community programmes in Africa and America.
"Having these boys engage in a project like this is fantastic"
Reaching the semi-final was a notable achievement for the school and, according to creative media tutor Mark Strijbosch, the students made a “massive change” during the course of the competition.
"They were superb on the stage in Sunderland," Strijbosch told premierleague.com. "They came across as very clear and their ideas were well structured, too. You should have seen the first time they presented, it was a completely different story. They are all winners. To get up on stage takes a lot of energy, a lot of guts and they have all showed that in the semi-final.
"That's a life skill which they are going to use in interviews, presentations and then in all their future jobs so they have gained a lot. There should be more of this kind of competition. Having these boys engage in a project like this is fantastic."
Everton were the first Premier League club to open a Free School. It opened in September 2012 and, run by Everton in the Community, uses the power of football to motivate youngsters and re-engage them with education. Strijbosch says the concept behind the school is mirrored in the Enterprise Challenge.
"The school is directed to attracting disengaged youth in society," he said. "People who have fallen out with their teachers at school, who aren't in schools, some of the kids aren't even in their own homes. They have got very unfortunate backgrounds so we bring them in and we try to give them education with a bit of twist and a project like this really does help. It ties in with what we do.
"I never believed I could get up on stage in front of so many people"
"The students really latched on to the programme. A lot of disengagement in youth happens because young people believe adults do not listen to them. They cry out for attention in a negative way. This is a cry out for attention in a very positive way. Adults have listened, the club has listened to their ideas and taken them on board. It gives the young people the knowledge that there are opportunities out there and that people are listening to them."
Team member Andrew Whittaker enjoyed taking part in the Enterprise Challenge and would recommend it anybody.
"The great thing about this competition is that the sky is the limit with what you can create," he said. "It gives you a lot of freedom. Getting to the semi-final has given me a lot of confidence. I never believed I could get up on stage in front of so many people. It's gelled the whole team together on this journey.
"I studied business in high school but it sort of faded away because it there was never anything to get involved with but as soon as this came along, I was right up for it."
The Enterprise Challenge is the highlight of the Premier League Enterprise Academy (PLEA), which gives young people insight into the running of a professional football club, engaging them in the world of business. The PLEA is delivered in partnership with the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills with 24 Premier League and Football Clubs involved in the initiative. Soon, 90,000 will have taken part in the programme since its inception in 2008.