Thirty-five students from Aldridge schools  had the opportunity to develop their entrepreneurial skills  when they were selected to take part in the Aldridge Foundation’s Elevate Summer School at the University of the West of England (UWE).

The students, our schools in the North West and Brighton, took part a week long programme supported by professional services firm Smith & Williamson and NatWest.

Aldridge Foundation Chief Executive Shona Nichols said: “Our aim is to inspire young people to develop enterprising skills alongside their academic qualifications. Skills such as creativity, teamwork and problem-solving. These give our students the skills and confidence they need to chase their dreams, to flourish at university and in their careers. The summer school is an exciting new part of our programme for Aldridge students.”

Forming teams with fellow students from different Aldridge schools across the country, the participants learnt about business ideas generation; understanding customers and competition; marketing; and how to create and deliver a successful pitch, with workshops delivered by a team of experts from across the University.

The students visited Smith and Williamson’s offices to learn about finance, company set-up and intellectual property and spent an afternoon at a NatWest Business Accelerator hub, meeting start-up businesses and local entrepreneurs and learning how to perfect their pitches.

Each team worked on developing a business or social enterprise idea throughout the week, before pitching their idea to a panel of judges at UWE’s Bristol Business School. The three winning concepts were a forum for young people suffering with mental health issues to share their thoughts anonymously and contribute to the reformation of the mental health landscape; an intuitive marketing app helping small businesses expand their reach by utilising surrounding communities; and an app for young people aimed at supporting mental wellbeing.

Harry Patterson, a Year 12 student from Darwen Aldridge Enterprise Studio who helped develop the marketing app concept, said: “The summer school has helped me to develop my skills in presenting new and original ideas as well as working in a team to refine and build upon ideas that have been sourced collectively”.

Josh Farnworth, a Year 9 student from Darwen Aldridge Community Academy added: “It was amazing! We already have a business focusing on reducing plastic waste, but this experience has given us so much to think about. A big thank you to everyone that made this trip possible”.

BACA student Curtis Pilsworth said: “I found it really rewarding: it definitely improved our work ethic and visiting numerous businesses expanded our understanding as a whole. It showed me that through working hard, we can achieve great things. The competition was fierce, but everyone we competed against were great people: I loved the experience overall!”

Tara Moxey, Manager of Smith and Williamson said: “It was a pleasure to work with the students and the team organising this event. It’s an amazing opportunity for the students and they all embraced it. I wish I had had something like this available to me at that age!”

DACA teachers Ryan Swailes and Helen Stark, who accompanied the students on the trip, added: “The Elevate Summer School was a fantastic experience. Our students learnt how to develop a pitch, and to consider all the elements they need to make a successful business venture. We have no doubt that they will use their passion and determination to go on and be thriving entrepreneurs.”

PACA teacher Myfanwy Faulkner reflected as she accompanied the academy’s team on the journey home “I’ve witnessed a little Enterprise and Entrepreneurship transformation.”