Schools and businesses work together to inspire future business leaders

A competition for enterprising young minds is challenging pupils from County Durham secondary schools to turn their problem-solving skills into a profitable business.

Future Business Magnates (FBM), now in its 18th year, will see enterprising young minds from the county’s secondary schools working together with partner businesses to create, develop and present their ideas for a solution to a current commercial challenge.

The programme, run by Business Durham, the business support service of Durham County Council, aims to inspire future entrepreneurs by allowing pupils to experience the fun of starting their own business while developing key employability skills, such as teamwork, problem-solving, communication and presentation skills.

It was launched last week at Durham County Cricket Club with 13 schools and 10 businesses from across County Durham.

Following this year’s theme of ‘Solving today’s problems with tomorrow’s technology’, participants will come up with a product which will solve a real problem people are facing today. Teams have been asked to use technology that is either currently available, or yet to be developed and come up with an idea that will help solve the problem and which can be turned into an innovative new business.

FBM provides a unique opportunity for businesses and schools to get together. The competition can help both understand the challenges businesses face and the type of skills the students involved need to overcome them.

Students will take part in six individual challenges, supported by dedicated business partners from successful County Durham businesses such as BTS Fabrications, Co-operative Retail Logistics, The Emotional Intelligence Company, Hydram Engineering, Stalemate, NuxtLab, TEDCO, South Durham Enterprise Agency and Waterstons.

Cllr Elizabeth Scott, Cabinet Member for Economy and Partnerships at Durham County Council, said: “Future Business Magnates provides a great  opportunity for students to explore possible career pathways as well as nurture and inspire their entrepreneurial skills.

“Recent times have tested the resilience of many companies across the county, and so the ability to encounter a problem and use your team’s creativity, ingenuity and inventiveness to find new solutions is an essential skill to thrive in today’s ever-changing world of business, and one we feel is vital to pass onto the next generation.”

Michael Stirrup, Chief Executive Officer at Waterstons, one of the business partners said: “The FBM competition allows Waterstons to give something back to the local community but also helps us show the children that there are some fantastic careers that can be built right here in County Durham.”

“We believe it is essential to get involved with our local schools and to inspire young people. It’s great to see them grow and develop new skills as they take part in the programme.”

Christopher Hobbs, Head of Citizenship at Park View School, said: “Future Business Magnates is a really valuable experience for our students. Pupils taking part grow across the year in terms of teamwork, critical thinking, confidence, self-belief, resilience, communication, leadership and organisation.

“Taking part in FBM genuinely demystifies the concept of succeeding in business. It gives pupils the confidence to believe they can be successful both in education and the broader working world.”