For the second year running, Bexhill College Business students have received an impressive start-up loan from the Peter Jones Foundation due to their innovative work in collaboration with St Mary's Special School in Bexhill.
In a letter to College Principal, Karen Hucker, Peter Jones CBE, star of BBC Two's Dragon's Den and organiser of the Tycoon in Schools competition wrote:
"At a time when business leaders are reporting a shortage of skills in the workforce, it is our mission to bridge the gap between education and industry. We work to prepare young people for the rigours of work and to show them that self-employment is a very real option."
The students received a loan of £1470 for submitting a business plan based upon an innovative 'shopping mall' which aims to help young people with learning difficulties gain work experience and improve social skills. Bexhill College students are working in collaboration with the staff and students of St Mary's Special School. Part of the St Mary's site has been redeveloped into a mini retail village, named the 'Aspire Vocational Centre'. This comprises a café, a car wash, a hair salon, a general store, a bank and a pop-up shop.
Jhelissa Bardrick, one of the Bexhill College students involved, said:
"I have relished the responsibility that has been given to me. I have been working on the design of the general store and contacting suppliers to ensure that the store is appropriately stocked. I have found it especially rewarding working with the St Mary's students on this joint project."
Andy Pritchard, Head of Politics, Economics, Business and Law at the College, hopes the opportunity will give them a head-start when it comes to moving onto their next destination. He said:
"In today's competitive job market individuals need to demonstrate they have a range of skills to offer, such as leadership, effective communication and the ability to work well in teams. We give our students the ability to demonstrate with integrity that they possess these skills whether it's when completing their university application form or attending a job interview."
Business students have been using their knowledge of constructing cash flow forecasts, budgeting and customer service to ensure they ultimately make a profit from this project.
Katie Roberts, the student who submitted the loan application to the Peter Jones Foundation, said:
"When submitting this loan application all I could think about was how much we would benefit from being able to use our business knowledge in a real-life business setting. From this experience, I have been able to grow as an individual as it has opened my mind to new ideas and perspectives."
Bexhill College students regularly have the opportunity to get involved in enriching activities. Home Secretary and MP Amber Rudd will be hosting a Q&A for students on Friday 10th February.
To find out more about the educational opportunities and courses at Bexhill College visit www.bexhillcollege.ac.uk. To find out more about how to get involved with the Aspire Vocational Centre, call St Mary's on 01424 730740.