Thursday 11 October 2012
Read more 2012 Enterprise Challenge semi-final reaction >
The first three teams have booked their places at the final of the 2012 Premier League Enterprise Challenge after coming through a tough semi-final at the home of Aston Villa on Tuesday.
Alexandra College of Enterprise, representing West Bromwich Albion, Aylsham High School, representing Norwich City, and Highlands School, representing Tottenham Hotspur, beat five other schools to make the final in London next month.
Over the last few weeks the young entrepreneurs, made up of Year 9-11 students, have worked on a challenge set by Premier League Chief Executive Richard Scudamore, which this year focused on how to improve customer service on match days.
"I am so pleased for the students, they have put in such a lot of effort"
Julie Cornfield, Alexandra College of Enterprise
After conducting extensive research and calculating financial costs and projections, the teams presented their ideas and pitches to a panel of "Dragons' Den" judges in front of distinguished guests and their competitors in a suite overlooking the Villa Park pitch.
"I am so proud of them, I could burst," said Alexandra College of Enterprise assistant head teacher Julie Cornfield after her school had qualified. "I am so pleased for the students. They have put in such a lot of effort, we had a training day recently and they still came in and worked.
"They have come together as a team, they have brainstormed their ideas really well and they have also had to work to a deadline. This has done a lot for their confidence; they have faith in themselves now. It’s amazing."
One of the main themes from the teams during the afternoon was taking the idea of the Games Makers at the London Olympics to welcome fans at matches as well as the use of smartphone apps for tickets and pre-ordering stadium food.
The event also had a touch of showbiz with the Aylsham High School presentation kicking off with a personal introduction from Sky Sports News presenter and Norwich fan Simon Thomas.
"It was an incredible experience," said the school's head of business and enterprise Emmalucy Auber. "It gives the opportunity for learning to become real.
"The students have learnt an immense amount. Not just through their business understanding but through the development of their enterprise skills.
"Their communication has flourished and how they have come together and worked together so professionally and presented so professionally has been fantastic. All credit to them."
The students heard speeches from Aston Villa chief financial officer Robin Russell as well as Shaun Bailey, the Special Adviser to the Prime Minister on Youth and Crime.
"There's a real political will to see more of this happen"
Bailey, who came from the Conservative Party Conference in Birmingham to watch the presentations, said he was very impressed with the standard of the pitches.
"I was stunned by the quality," he said. "To put the youngsters through an exercise that a club realistically would have to go through and demand of them a realistic response with the added element of competition to ramp up the background is what really drives the quality.
"What's really important about this is that it gives kids a context for education. When they come in and see that a football club is not just about the 90 minutes, it’s about the electrician, the marketing department, selling the tickets, that context adds to why you would learn a subject in school.
"I am on pretty safe ground when I say I think the Prime Minister is behind these things and that's where the real importance lies. There's a real political will to see more of this happen."
The ideas generated by the Challenge have also impressed the clubs with the Aston Villa team set to present to the club’s senior management while Aylsham High School have met Norwich City chief executive David McNally, who sent the students a good luck message before the semi-final.
The Premier League Enterprise Challenge is in its fourth year and aims to encourage and develop a variety of business skills including problem-solving, creativity, innovation, team-work and enterprise.
One of the judges at Villa Park was Paul Lewis, the Assistant Director to Lord Young, who advises the Prime Minister on small business and enterprise, and he said the scheme is a valuable tool in getting the best out of the country’s young people.
"At the semi-final, I witnessed lots of very enterprising, intelligent and creative kids"
"This is very much what Lord Young has in mind in terms of promoting enterprise in schools and educational institutions," said Lewis. "What we are trying to achieve is to get kids to think about business and being their own boss at a very early age.
"This is about breaking down age barriers; this is about what you can achieve when you are ready, not at a certain age or with a certain experience.
"At the semi-final, I witnessed lots of very enterprising, intelligent and creative kids doing exactly what we need to get them to be their own boss and to be innovative and creative when they go into the work place."
Each of the 21 football clubs with a Premier League Enterprise Academy were invited to take part in the event, with the final taking place at the Westminster Conference Centre on 13th November.
A further 10 teams will compete in the second semi-final on Thursday, which is being held at Newcastle United's St James' Park. The teams who are going for the final three places are representing: Newcastle United, Sunderland, Middlesbrough, Manchester United, Manchester City, Liverpool, Everton, Blackburn, Blackpool and Hull City.
For more information on the Premier League Enterprise Academy and the Enterprise Challenge, please contact Sophie Hukin via e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.