The first intake of students at City College Plymouth’s new Peter Jones Enterprise Academy are already energetically forging their future business careers, reports Eleanor Gaskarth.
Dressed to impress, City College Plymouth's inaugural intake of 10 Peter Jones Academy candidates already look ready to do business.
Their five-day working week will comprise eight hour days, with around half of the year-long course based around talks from entrepreneurs and business leaders, plus master classes and workshops, in a move away from traditional classroom-based learning.
The fourth Peter Jones Academy to have launched in the Westcountry, it is an opportunity for aspiring entrepreneurs to realise their business dreams. It was founded by star of Dragons' Den Peter Jones and based on a philosophy of 'learning by doing' and 'bringing the boardroom to the classroom.'
Successful students will gain a Level 3 BTEC in enterprise and entrepreneurship, equivalent to two A levels but with the aim of either helping them to set-up and run their own business or thrive within an existing organisation.
Some of the group already have a firm idea of which path they want to go down, whilst others are keeping an open mind and keen to discover where their talents and interests lie.
Each student will start up a micro-business, with the business plan itself forming a substantial part of the course assessment.
Charlie Easton, 18, has his sights set on designing and making urban streetwear and has spent the past four months learning about the trade as he worked at Estover-based screenprinting company Frontline Image.
He said his business hero was another of the Dragons, Theo Paphitis, adding: "His catchphrase is 'cash flow is king, profit is sanity, turnover is vanity.' It just makes complete sense to me – the man's a legend."
His fellow student Curtis Harkin, 22, has previously worked in an engineering environment but explained: "I fancied a change – to fulfil the ideas in my head and make them material." His planned projects include selling T-shirts produced by a friend and generating business for self-employed mates across various trades, but ultimately he said he wants to be "a marketing and PR guru." Twin sisters Charlotte and Chelsea Gregory, 17, came upon their business idea whilst clothes shopping on the high street. Charlotte said: "We were looking for clothes and thought it was ridiculous how few there were in plus sizes, and how badly designed a lot of them were.
"We decided we could do better, for all sizes."
Frances Mortimer has moved all the way from her home in Gillingham, Dorset, after attending an open day at the Academy. The 18-year-old said she was still "a bit vague at the moment" as to which direction she would take but was considering a career in events. She said she appreciates the professional attire the group are required to don, adding: "It helps my mindset. I wanted it to be a proper business environment and it is."
Curtis Graham,18, plans to create a new range of healthy ice creams and milkshakes using locally sourced ingredients. He said: "I've already spoken to a few dairies, a producer and a drinks manufacturer who said they would be interested in working with me once the idea is ready and also gave me some very useful tips about what would work. I'm passionate about healthy eating so this is a logical business for me."
Seventeen-year-old Tom Carmichael, the youngest member of the group, started studying A levels but said he got "poor results" and wanted to do something "more focused." He hopes to become involved in the retail sector, adding: "I just wanted to get on with it and be doing something closer to the working world."
Their course leader, Alison Chapman, said support for the students would not finish at the end of the year. The Academy's partners, Outset Plymouth and Enterprise Plymouth, will help them to "incubate and expand" their businesses for up to three years. The students will also be able to pitch for employment with businesses who will have engaged with them over the course of the year.
Alison said: "You put the adverts out there and form the course but you have no idea what kind of people you will attract. It has been wonderful to find a group like this and the first few days have been unbelievably positive and productive."
The group have already had two guest speakers, entrepreneur Emma Jane Lewis, who spoke about her experiences, and Tina Sibley, who gave a workshop on personal confidence and communication.
They are also being supported by PGCE student Stacey Bains who will be working with the students, particularly in their personal and professional development sessions.