Aycliffe Today Business editor Martin Walker was at the 2015 Future Business Magnates awards ceremony held at the Xcel Centre…
There was a special sense of achievement in the air when 24 school teams from around County Durham packed into the Xcel Centre’s auditorium for the 2015 Future Business Magnates awards ceremony.
FBM was launched by the late, great Sir Bobby Robson in 2005. Since then, more than 70 companies from around County Durham have been involved.
The competition aims to get schools engaged with local businesses. Teams are paired up with company bosses to work on prototype ideas and they compete, almost Dragons Den style, by pitching their business plan to a panel of expert judges.
The competition celebrated its 10th anniversary this year, with five Aycliffe companies involved.
Hitachi Rail Europe entered two teams as their staff were partnered with Sedgefield Community College and Aycliffe’s own Woodham Academy.
Ebac also entered two teams, with the firm’s new Norfrost brand being paired with Bishop Barrington School, and Ebac being paired with Wellfield Community School.
Our other school, Greenfield Community College, was partnered with Aycliffe firm Inspection & Engineering Services (IES) – both winners last year. Greenfield won best team and IES came third overall.
Meanwhile, Gregg Little Testing Centre was paired with St John’s School in Bishop Auckland and High Impact Development teamed up with Barnard Castle School.
Hitachi’s Sedgefield team won the award for best financial plan, but Sarah Slaven – Business Durham’s business development manager who co-organises the event along with Gary Chaplin and Hilary Currie – says they’re delighted that the “home of County Durham business” is leading the way.
She told Aycliffe Today Business: “It’s great to see the home of our businesses – the county’s largest business park – embracing the competition and really reaching out to other parts of the county and helping young people to develop.
“Hitachi have supported two teams, Ebac and Norfrost by Ebac have both supported teams, as well as the likes of Gregg Little Testing Centre, High Impact Development and IES.
“It really helps to sell the benefits to other businesses. If a business sees that the big-name companies are tuned into what we’re doing, it makes it that little bit easier to get our foot in the door with others.
“Whatever the size of the businesses are, once they’ve been involved they really get the bug and are really passionate about it.”
Rory Pickering is one of around 200 Hitachi Rail Europe staff who’ve taken up their new roles with the Japanese firm in Aycliffe.
Currently based at South West Durham Training’s premises on the park, the test engineer will move into Hitachi’s new £82m train-building factory when it opens this year.
Working alongside Hitachi manufacturing engineer Scott Dixon, their Sedgefield Community College team (pictured with Rory below) won best financial plan.
Rory told us: “We’re so pleased they won something. They put in so much effort and hard work over the year in every challenge – they deserve it. All of the youngsters and the teacher put a lot of time, effort and thought into it.
“Competitions like this are so important. These children are going to be the future of our economy and businesses in the country.
“The earlier they get involved in things like this, it teaches them fantastic lessons and prepares them for going into business later in life.”
Two other key people within Durham County Council were also at FBM’s special 10th anniversary event.
Simon Goon, managing director of Business Durham said he’s also delighted to see so many well-known local firms involved.
“Aycliffe continues to put itself on the map, and it’s great to see them getting involved in FBM,” Dr Goon told Aycliffe Today.
“When I started this role two years ago, I said Aycliffe should be a much more talked about business park. It has the potential to be a huge economic powerhouse for the North East and UK, so it’s fantastic to see Aycliffe schools and businesses working together like this.”
Dr Goon says FBM helps to address the “much reported issue” of businesses not engaging with schools, and vice versa.
“When they do, and we can give them a vehicle to do that, you can see that it works,” he added.
“Not only does it work, but it does inspire the young people and educates them in a whole range of hard and soft tasks, as you’ve seen from the prototypes.
“A lot of praise needs to be given to Durham County Council, and others, who have backed this programme for a decade, and in the summer to get all of these young people and businesses here together, to celebrate their achievements, gives us a real buzz.”
Councillor Neil Foster, Durham’s cabinet member for economic regeneration, gave the opening speech to this year’s FBM.
Afterwards he told us: “In terms of developing young people, and encouraging them to get involved in business and experiment with the world of work, this is just great.
“That message stays with them as they move into year nine and year 10, and they start thinking about their options. It can find a spark in young people.
“We want them to have that entrepreneurial spirit, whether that’s for themselves or within a company, but the important thing is we want them to do that in County Durham.
“This is where we need that support. This is where we want them to set up new businesses, to create jobs and create a cluster of businesses that can work together and develop.
“I’m delighted Aycliffe businesses are involved and I applaud them for taking the time. It’s a busy world we live in, but they’ve taken the time out, and now they can reflect on working with the young people and how further down the line that can benefit them.
“I hope they get as much out of it as they put into it.”
FBM WINNERS 2015
1st Place: Durham Johnston School (Exposure Events)
2nd: Belmont Community School (Waterstones)
3rd: Durham High School for Girls (Blue Sky Think)
Most creative design idea: Bishop Barrington School (Norfrost by Ebac)
Best brand name and marketing slogan: Consett Academy (Derwentside Environmental Testing)
Best use of advice and support: Park View School (Steelcraft)
Best environmental business: Whitworth Park School (Holiday Inn Darlington North)
Most effective team: Seaham School of Technology (Plug & Play Marketing Solutions)
Best use of technology: Framwellgate School (Inter-line North East)
Best financial plan: Sedgefield Community College (Hitachi Rail Europe)
Best presentation: St Bede’s School, Lanchester (Profound Services)
Other teams taking part…
Barnard Castle School: High Impact Development
Dene Community School: Pepsico
Durham School: Brambledown Landscape Services
Ferryhill Business & Enterprise College: Thorn Lighting
Greenfield Community College: Inspection & Engineering Services (IES)
North Durham Academy: Simpson Bros
St John’s Bishop: Gregg Little Testing Centre
St Leonard’s Catholic School: The Esh Group
Sunnydale Community College: Create City
Tanfield School: Dyer Engineering
Teesdale School: GSK
Wellfield Community School: Ebac
Woodham Academy: Hitachi Rail Europe
GET THE BUZZ
Durham County Council used the 10th anniversary of FBM to reveal an exciting new initiative to get more businesses to engage with education.
Get The Buzz is already in full swing, and will raise the profile of education and business engagement by encouraging schools and businesses in County Durham to get involved
A number of employers are already starting to visit schools to inspire students in the County.
“We look forward to more activities over the next year as the Get The Buzz brand becomes established,” said Cllr Neil Foster, Durham’s cabinet member for economic regeneration.