Áilín Quinlan hears from students who participated in three entrepreneurship programmes organised by Junior Achievement Ireland.
This month, primary and second-level schools throughout Ireland have been making submissions under a new awards scheme which aims to showcase excellence in entrepreneurship education.
The Entrepreneurial School Awards (TESA), which includes a prize fund of €10,000, has been launched as part of a diverse range of projects run by Junior Achievement Ireland (JAI), an organisation which established programmes to help young people develop the skills to succeed in a rapidly changing world. Last year, JAI facilitated the participation of some 60,000 students attending over 500 schools in JA activities with the support of over 160 companies and 3,000 volunteers.
The winner of the TESA School of the Year — the school designated Ireland’s most entrepreneurial school — will be invited to represent Ireland at the Entrepreneurial Schools Conference in Helsinki in November 2019.
JAI chief executive Helen Raftery said that in its work with schools across Ireland, the organisation saw first-hand the incredible work being done to prepare students to achieve success in their futures.
“We are delighted that TESA will give us the opportunity to formally recognise that excellent work, as well as identifying an overall winner (TESA School of the Year), which will represent Ireland at the European Entrepreneurial School Awards in Helsinki in November,” she declared.
“We encourage all partner schools to share the details of their commitment to entrepreneurship education and join us at the summit in October to engage with other educators in this field. Of course, there is also a chance to be designated best-in-class.” For full details of the application process TESA see ww. jai.ie
This programme helped 17-year-old Aaron Bennett, land a summer job.
Aaron, who participated in the programme from transition year through to the first term of his Leaving Certificate year at St Paul’s CBS Secondary School on North Brunswick St, Dublin 7, found the experience to be an eye-opener.
“I learned a lot of skills,” he says of the programme which develops students’ potential by enabling their involvement in a range of activities. As part of the programme Aaron was paired with a business mentor for 18 months, visited workplaces, attended masterclasses and completed work placements.
The overall aims of the JAI Career Ready initiative, supported by Citi, are to help students to recognise their potential, to develop and increase their employability skills, support their academic work and introduce them to the world of work.
“My meetings with my mentor were a big eye-opener for me. I learned a lot of skills such as how to express yourself in the interview scenario, how to polish up my CV, how to present myself in an interview in terms of how I dressed, and to assert myself in terms of looking and sounding professional.
“The programme definitely helped me get a sales assistant job last summer — I don’t think I would have had the confidence or the skill to assert myself to an interviewer if I hadn’t done this course,” he says, adding that following the interview his new employers revealed that they had been very impressed by his interview skills.
“I feel the programme really gave me a good foundation to build on in terms of managing job interviews. My mentor also gave me great tips on how to manage myself in the workplace and assert myself in terms of colleagues. It was very useful.”
The programme gave Co Galway student Dara Kiely, 17, and his team valuable insights into everything from effective negotiation and leadership to goal-setting and project planning.
Now in fifth year, Dara looks back with enthusiasm on his time spent as project manager on an initiative under the programme, which ran at Claregalway College, a few miles outside Galway city, while he was in transition year:
The Project Management Skills for Life, a collaborative initiative between the Project Management Institute Educational Foundation (PMIEF) and JAI, brings transition year students through the core principles of project management, enabling students to understand, plan, carry out, monitor and evaluate a project of their own.
In all, Dara and his team of about 25 transition-year students at Coláiste Bhaile Chláir built an initiative around their objective of raising awareness about LGBT rights within their school.
This was done through a special 3km ‘Colour Run’ run in which 80 students participated. The project was designed and organised under the guidance of two professional project managers from the private sector who mentored Dara and his team:
“ It took about a month to organise from start to finish. I found it helped us develop good leadership and communication skills; it was about motivating and inspiring people, that was very important.
“We also learned how to communicate with each other within the team in a constructive way.
“Out of that experience, I felt that we developed a lot of the skills which also applied to our school work, in terms of time management and communication skills and working well with peers.”
Molly Nic Pháidín’s father would recall how, as a child, he would rinse his hands in bog water to soften them after a day spent helping out on the bog.
Listening to the story, his daughter decided that the skin-softening qualities of water in the local bog had the potential for the development of a small business — and proceeded to build a company around it with five school friends, Grace Ní Chonchúr, Kate Ní Chnáimhsí, Aifric Nic Niallais, Clionagh Nic Suibhne, and Caitlin James.
The girls, all students at Pobalscoil Ghaoth Dobhair, Co Donegal, set up a mini-business Boue Cosmetics, creating a mud face-mask made from bog mud, and an accompanying website to promote their product, under Clár na gComhlachtaí, a hands-on business learning experience developed and delivered in partnership with Údarás na Gaeltachta and Junior Achievement Ireland.
The programme is taught through the Irish language to students attending schools in Gaeltacht regions covering Cork, Donegal, Galway, Mayo, Meath, Kerry and Waterford. Local business volunteers and development executives from Údarás na Gaeltachta mentor the students alongside their teachers as they move from the idea generation stage, to production, marketing, sales, finance through to going to market.
“We had to boil the mud, and then add aloe vera, jasmine tea and eucalyptus oil,” explains Clionagh Nic Suibhne of their award-winning product.
“We had to tweak it a few times to get the consistency right. It took about four weeks to develop it and we set up a focus group of female students and teachers, to get feedback,” she says, adding that the group is currently seeking funding for packaging and distributing the product.
“In the process of doing this, we learned a lot about team-building and listening to each other — we also expanded our knowledge about bogs and skincare and learned about business management and marketing.”
The company website, designed by team-member Aifric Nic Niallais won strong commendation from the judges.