Monday 25 November 2013
Last week, the starting hooter was sounded for this year's Premier League Enterprise Challenge, a national competition which gives thousands of youngsters from around the country the opportunity to generate ideas to solve a real-life business scenario set by Premier League Chief Executive Richard Scudamore.
The event is the highlight of the Premier League Enterprise Academy scheme, which is backed by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and engages youngsters in business and enterprise activities throughout the year.
There are now 24 clubs running Enterprise Academies, with youngsters taking part in a wide variety of interactive learning opportunities in the classroom and at football grounds.
"We've seen attendance and behaviour improving as well as grades which is massive"
"It is a fantastic programme because it is different to the other Premier League schemes that are on offer," Manchester United Foundation education and business development manager Lami Sonola told premierleague.com. "It provides students a different perspective on what they can aspire to be. When youngsters think about football, they just consider the players on the pitch, but there are so many avenues within a club that they would never really know about.
"The Enterprise Academy provides different ideas, professions and career options for the youngsters and delivers programmes that are innovative and fun. The activities really test the youngsters whether they are from areas of deprivation, whether they are disengaged all the way to the gifted and talented. There is something there for everyone."
Inspired by a model pioneered at Middlesbrough, the Premier League Enterprise Academy began a national roll out in 2008 and by the summer over 90,000 young people will have been engaged in the project.
Students taking part in the Enterprise Academy learn about all aspects of a football club, such as catering, IT, marketing and finance, with clubs opening their doors to allow the youngsters to meet department managers and see for themselves how the organisation works.
And Sam McLoughlin, Newcastle United Foundation's project manager for community, believes the power of football makes a massive difference to the learning experience for the youngsters.
"We are able to use the football clubs to really capture their imagination"
"When our staff walk in to the classroom in their Newcastle United tracksuits, the youngsters are engaged even before they start speaking," said McLoughlin. "I think the students up their game a little bit, they respond to our staff.
"There are nice incentives for them like the fact that we can bring them to the stadium but I don't think that's the main part of it. It's more our staff and the alternative education environment that we set up. We've seen attendance and behaviour improving as well as grades which is massive.
"We have delivered it to every secondary school in Newcastle - we have just got to the 11,000 mark and it is matter of trying to squeeze everybody in the timetable now."
Sonola and McLoughlin were among those who highlighted the work of the Enterprise Academy when they hosted business workshops with 60 youngsters from London schools at the launch of the Enterprise Challenge at Chelsea's Stamford Bridge last Thursday. Sonola ran a session on presentation and communication skills while McLoughlin's workshop got the youngsters to look at business plans and profit margins with regard to the manufacture of club shirts.
"Young people need entrepreneurship skills as that provides them with the right attributes to be employable," added Sonola. "They also learn leadership, communication and presentation skills, which in turn gives them confidence and self-belief.
"One of the reasons the students are engaged is because of the power of the brand. We are able to use the football clubs to really capture their imagination but we have to back that up with quality provision and that's what the Premier League Enterprise Academy does, especially with disengaged pupils."
"What I like about it is the way the kids are not treated like schoolchildren, they are treated like adults"
The young people taking part in the workshops at Stamford Bridge had not been involved in the Enterprise Academy before but were keen to find out more after enjoying the taster sessions.
"What I like about it is the way the kids are not treated like schoolchildren, they are treated like adults," said Darrel Barsby, head of PE at the Evelyn Grace Academy in Brixton, whose students analysed the unique selling points of football boots before designing their own in a workshop run by Sunderland and Fulham. "They were brought in to do some really serious work and to do things they would not normally get the opportunity to do in school.
"I was very pleased with how they responded to it. They are 100% engaged. They want to be here, they want to do what they are being asked to do. It's given them that bit of inspiration.
"The Premier League Enterprise Academy looks amazing and I definitely want to get involved. At the launch there were a lot of different schools and a lot of different professionals working on it. It's a wonderful set up. The opportunity for these kids to learn about this outside the classroom is just amazing. They'll never forget it. They will forget what I taught them yesterday but they will remember this for the rest of their lives!"