Business leaders of the future take part in inspiring competition

Thirteen and fourteen year old pupils from three Southampton schools – Oasis Academy Lords Hill, Cantell School and Woodlands Community College – have competed to give the best presentation about the world of business as part of an education programme set up by Business in the Community.

The winning school on the day was Woodlands Community School for their clear understanding of the subject, innovation in their presentation, clever use of video and their strong team work. Cantell School was highly commended.

The event, called Solent Inspires, was held at KPMG last month and was aimed at developing business skills in young people.

This is the second year of Solent Inspires and the judges for the final were Mark Smith, Chief Executive, Southern Co-op; Rebecca McDonnell, Senior Manager, KPMG; Rachael Saunders, Education Director, Business in the Community; and Professor Mike Wilkinson, Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Solent University.

Judge Mark Smith, Chief Executive at Southern Co-op and Chair of the Solent Cluster said: “It was such a delight to be part of this competition and to hear each group’s presentation. I was particularly impressed with their clear growth in confidence and their mature approach to their work.”

The event was part of ‘Business Class’, a school-business partnership programme managed by Business in the Community (BITC). Schools identify their priorities for improvement and, supported by BITC, work with their business partner to achieve shared goals. They then join forces as a cluster of partnerships to share best practise and deliver joint activities addressing common issues.


The pupils presenting were judged on their understanding of the job market and the skills employers look for; presentation style; innovativeness and creativity around communications and team working.

Reflecting on the experience, a student from Cantell School said: “I learnt to be more confident in myself.”

A teacher from Woodlands Community College said: “I watched the girls grow in confidence and hone skills such as teamwork, leadership, listening, understanding and empathy. It was a fantastic experience for me too.”

Another teacher from Woodlands said: “It’s been beneficial to the students to work as a group, assign each other tasks and complete them as well as working to a deadline and then fine tuning their presentation skills by filming it and getting constructive feedback to action. The final presentation to a large audience although initially daunting gave them tremendous confidence in themselves afterwards.”

Nikki Wakefield, Education Manager at BITC said: “Young people are increasingly being attracted to careers in business and industry based on the basic level of careers information, advice and guidance given to them through school. However with employer engagement activities it has been shown that by providing activities relating to skills, increasing their understanding and knowledge of the business environment, this will in turn support their decisions and raise aspirations for their future.

“This event is designed to challenge year nine students and raise awareness of career opportunities available to them, as well as helping them to discover what employers are looking for.”

Among the areas BITC aim to develop are time management and prioritising skills; team working; managing feelings; handling the feelings of others; persuading or influencing others; and reading and understanding instructions.