Anything is possible

Despite the many challenges of the pandemic, pupils around the country have continued to take part in the UK’s largest enterprise competition, hoping to be crowned National Enterprise Challenge champions this July.

The UK’s students are among those who have been significantly affected by the impact of Covid-19 and Ben Dyer, co-founder of The Inspirational Learning Group, which hosts the annual National Enterprise Challenge, recognises their resilience in the face of such disruption.

For the past 10 years, The Inspirational Learning Group has travelled all around the UK to physically deliver and facilitate its challenge days to hundreds of schools. But with the uncertain environment surrounding Covid-19, Dyer says they invested in a bespoke online delivery platform, meaning schools could continue with the programmes.

I say to students you should use this period now as your leveller, to progress and give yourself the best opportunity in life. You can achieve anything you want; use this as your vehicle to grab everything with two hands and push forward

Ben Dyer
Co-founder, The Inspirational Learning Group

“Many schools and students have continued to work on the programme at home and we’ve been delighted with the response. Students should be proud of themselves for continuing in lockdown,” he says. “Schools are committed to the programme; some are already developing their pitches ready for the finals in July. They’ve taken it seriously, continuing regardless. We’re making sure we enhance those skills the challenge aims to deliver on.”

Background no obstacle

By that he means increasing the employability skills of young people; engaging, inspiring and motivating them to be the best they can be by giving them confidence and enterprise experience. Students taking part in the National Enterprise Challenge will participate in, for example, NatWest’s Dream Bigger programme, a series of interactive workshops that encourage young people to think with an entrepreneurial mindset.

NatWest has also set this year’s Key Stage 4 challenge, where student teams from schools create their own social enterprise solution to address a common issue affecting their daily life, school, family or local community. Working in teams, they will consider what it means to be entrepreneurial before considering what steps they could take to address the issues they have identified and how they would market their products or services.

Andrew Harrison, head of business banking and entrepreneurship at the bank, says: “NatWest is committed to supporting entrepreneurship across the UK. We know that entrepreneurs and small businesses are the lifeblood of the UK economy, and through our programmes such as the National Enterprise Challenge and Dream Bigger, we’re aiming to inspire and encourage the next generation to develop awareness of entrepreneurship as a future career option, increase their confidence and resilience, and prepare for the world of work.

“After a particularly challenging year for young people, we’re looking forward to seeing the teams compete to become National Enterprise Challenge champions 2021 in July, and wish everyone taking part the very best of luck.”

New outlook

Dyer says one consequence of Covid-19 has been a shift in perspective: “I think community has become more important to the younger generation. Ultimately, that will have a positive impact on society – people are realising what’s important to them, probably more so than ever. We’re going to see a lot of ideas at the finals to showcase that and we’re looking forward to that element.”

He’s keen for students to extend the resilience they’ve learned over the last year, he adds, whether that’s by continuing to focus on grades or considering schemes such as Kickstart, which aims to create thousands of new, fully subsidised jobs for 16- to 24-year-olds.

“I say to students you should use this period now as your leveller, to progress and give yourself the best opportunity in life. You can achieve anything you want; use this as your vehicle to grab everything with two hands and push forward. At the end of the day, we don’t know what’s around the corner. Nobody could have foreseen what we’ve just lived through and are continuing to live through. You can come out of this period positively. Take the time to step back, think about what’s important, then give it your best shot.”

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