In a time of high youth unemployment school leavers need to know how to present themselves persuasively to prospective employers in the job market. Too often, they let themselves down through lack of interview technique, the wrong body language and an inability to muster their strengths in front of an interviewer...

Fostering an Entrepreneurial Attitude with Young Enterprise

(Image courtesy of Harry Hubbard at the Royston Crow)

Johnson Matthey joined forces with the youth charity, Young Enterprise, for a business day at a local school in February 2013. Twelve employees from the Royston site, representing different functions and businesses, volunteered to help school students in Year 9 of the Meridian School to understand the world of work and what recruitment is all about.

Interview and People Skills

The programme for the day was diverse. One of the first activities was a mock job interview. The students and Johnson Matthey personnel were handed a card, telling them whether they were to take the role of employer or applicant. By allowing the students experience of either or both roles, the young people gained insight into what will be expected of them in job interviews of the future. They were reminded of the importance of body language and making friendly eye contact with the other person, and how extra curricular activities and part time jobs provide a wealth of skills an employer wants to hear about.

Students also took a personality test which helped them understand their own aptitudes – a vital step in identifying the right kind of job and giving their best to an employer.

Product Creation

The main 'product creation' session took the students into an unfamiliar zone aimed at developing their creative skills. It was rather similar to television's popular Apprentice programme, where would-be entrepreneurs are set unusual tasks in a team not of their own choice. At the Meridian School the teams were asked to create a prototype of the product using simple craft materials.

To simulate the way in which real life projects come up against problems, additional information was given incrementally. First the teams were told the product had to be a toy; then they learnt that it was to be for a child aged 10 to15 years, that it must be educational and that a grandmother would be buying it, not the child. The organisers deliberately introduced hiccups, and the students were required to show teamwork and problem solving skills.

The product creation session ended with each team giving a presentation to the judges, which included Johnson Matthey employees, the town mayor and a local councillor, showing the product, together with a company name, logo, slogan and advertisement.

What the Students Took From the Event

Johnson Matthey received excellent feedback from the school and Young Enterprise, and the volunteers from the company felt that they too had benefited on a personal level. While new product development is not in reality executed at quite such speed, what the students actually took away with them was the sense that enterprise is an adventure and work is rewarding. Johnson Matthey played an important role in the event by helping the students make themselves more employable and prepare themselves for a working life – a valuable contribution to the community.