Isle of Man News - POSTED Fri 19-05-2017

Junior Achievement business mentors: inspiring entrepreneurship in young people

by LC

Junior Achievement business mentors: inspiring entrepreneurship in young people - picture

Junior Achievement’s team of volunteer business mentors guide and support Year 12 students taking part in the company programme which, over the course of an academic year, challenges them to form a company and take a product or service to market.

This year 29 teams competed in the Manx charity’s flagship programme, which culminated in the Company of the Year awards presentation, an occasion not only for celebrating students’ success but also for recognising the valuable long service of four business mentors: Terry Bradley from Zurich Global Life, Keith Green from the Isle of Man Post Office, Damon Warr from PwC and Paul Wiseman from Barclays.

Reflecting on her work with Junior Achievement Terry Bradley said: ‘I’ve had the pleasure of being a business mentor for the company programme for a number of years. 

‘The role of a business mentor is to guide and support the students throughout the company programme.  You have to be committed, meeting with students weekly and available for support as and when needed.  As with any business, there will be successes, obstacles that need to be overcome and times when things don’t quite go to plan.  You will guide students to arrive at answers themselves, helping them to appreciate what they need to do to be successful and getting them to consider lessons learned.  A lot of patience is required and you need to be able to resist simply telling them what to do.

‘The ultimate aim is to win the company programme and go on to represent the island in the European finals. For those who do not win the Company of the Year award there is, however, still a great sense of achievement gained from taking part in the programme.  Even when the journey has been tough, students can appreciate what they have gained in personal development.

‘It’s very rewarding to see the progress the students make, increasing in confidence, pushing themselves to step up to face their fears, working well together as a team, gaining an understanding of the many trials faced in business, and the sense of achievement they get when everything starts to fall into place and success comes their way.’

Keith Green of Isle of Man Post Office has been a mentor for 14 years. He said: ‘I’ve found the process to be a great experience. Along the way, I’ve met many talented and innovative young people who are often inspiring to all around them. There’s a lot of hard work for everyone concerned but, as a mentor, you derive an immense feeling of pride when, on finals day, you see all the students’ hard work and skills they’ve developed coming together. The confidence and ability they show when giving presentations and showcasing their products and services makes it all a memorable experience.’

PwC’s Damon Warr became a mentor in 2006. He said: ‘For some time I’d wanted to give something back to the community and the Isle of Man, which by then had become my home.  Volunteering for Junior Achievement not only helps me to develop my coaching skills but also provides me with an ever-increasing sense of wonder at the inventiveness, dedication and hard work of every team I have met.  I believe Junior Achievement makes a real difference in helping young achievers be the best they can be and gives them an early boost into the business world.’

Barclays’ Paul Wiseman added: ‘It’s a great experience seeing the company team members develop and bond over the course of the programme. I always ask them at the end of the programme what positives they took from it and, invariably, they say have taken part in something that has assisted them over the course of the school year, and for me this is very rewarding to see year on year.’

Ballakermeen High School’s head of sixth form Ian Kay is an ardent supporter of Junior Achievement and its company programme. Referring to the team of business mentors he said: ‘They have cajoled when required, but let students make their own mistakes and learn from them.   They have been the voice of reason, of encouragement and have refereed in numerous heated arguments.  Rather than telling students the way, they have signposted it.’

Junior Achievement’s chief executive Sue Cook said: ‘We’re extremely grateful to all our business mentors for taking time out from their work schedules to share their experience and knowledge and inspire next-generation entrepreneurs.

‘Taking part in the company programme not only gives students the opportunity to work alongside established professionals and gain an insight into the business world, but also to develop the self confidence and the entrepreneurial skills needed to succeed in an increasingly competitive jobs market.

‘It’s encouraging to learn that our business mentors find their role so rewarding and a valuable contribution to their own personal and career development.

‘Research shows that 15 per cent of students who take part in the company programme go on to become self-employed, compared to the national average of six per cent. But without the support of our mentors we simply would not be able to deliver the company programme, which this year attracted a record level of entries.

‘With this in mind we’re currently looking to recruit more volunteer business mentors who can help young people to better understand the complexities of the business world and support them in their transition from student to entrepreneur.’

In the last academic year Junior Achievement Isle of Man helped 5,500 young people to develop skills for the workplace. With the help of 400 volunteers it is working in every primary and secondary school in the island.

To find out more about becoming a Junior Achievement volunteer business mentor visit jaiom.im or contact Joy Spence, 666266, joy.spence@jaiom.im.

Pictured: Long-serving Junior Achievement volunteer business mentors Keith Green, Terry Bradley, Paul Wiseman and Damon Warr. Back row, Ballakermeen High School’s head of sixth form Ian Kay. Photo Andrew Barton.

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