Guest blog post for Global Entrepreneurship Week: Sir Rod Aldridge, Founder and Chair of the Aldridge Foundation

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The Aldridge Foundation and Bristol Business School are delighted to announce their partnership to create the Aldridge Institute for Enterprise and Entrepreneurship at the Bristol Business School. 

Guest author: Sir Rod Aldridge

As an entrepreneur I had the opportunity to found my own business – the Capita Group. Over a 22-year period I led the company’s development from a start-up with one employee, me, to the FTSE 100.

Today Capita employs 74,000 people, with annual revenues approaching £5 billion.

What is unusual about my story is that my opportunity didn’t come until I was 38. Having failed my 11-plus, my education didn’t equip me to succeed, and I left school at 16 to be a post boy in the local Council offices. Fortunately, my family gave me determination and self-belief. I built a successful career in the public sector and, at 38, was in a position to take my chance.

I don’t mind admitting that I feel angry about my education. How it didn’t develop my enterprising skills from a younger age. I wonder what I could have achieved in those 20+ years if it had been different.

Increasingly young people want to start their own businesses. To work in sectors where self-employment is more the norm. The pace of technological and economic change means that many of tomorrow’s careers are only being imagined today. More than ever young people need not only good qualifications but the skills to adapt and flourish in an ever-changing society.

I established the Aldridge Foundation because I’m passionate about transforming the life-chances of young people. I believe this can be achieved through education equipping them to develop an enterprising mind-set alongside gaining their academic qualifications. Through the schools in the Aldridge Education multi-academy trust we have ten years’ experience of doing just that.

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Aldridge and the Bristol Business School at UWE share very similar vison and values. We have a collective focus on employability and tackling the issues around social exclusion. On developing innovative, evidence-based approaches to embedding enterprising skills in teaching and learning.

And so I am delighted that we have agreed a partnership to create the Aldridge Institute for Enterprise and Entrepreneurship at BBS.

Led by a Professor of Enterprise & Entrepreneurship the Aldridge Institute will change thinking about how people learn and train teachers to teach in a different way. It will transform the skills young people develop in UK schools, colleges and universities, changing their futures and creating a more successful economy.

Coming at the end of Global Entrepreneurship Week I believe this is a really exciting development for UK students, educators and UK PLC.

First students on course which has become hotbed for start-ups poised to graduate

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The first group of students to embark on a pioneering degree course which has produced a flurry of new ventures and start-up companies are preparing to graduate.

Next week, the first cohort of students to join the Team Entrepreneurshipprogramme at the University of the West of England (UWE Bristol) three years ago will pick up their degrees at a ceremony at the city’s cathedral.

The course is one of only a handful of its type in the UK dedicated to giving undergraduates the practical experience to launch and run their own ventures.

An alternative to a traditional degree, students on the course work to a tailored programme to equip themselves with entrepreneurial and teamwork skills ready to launch their own businesses or become effective team players within dynamic and changing organisations. On graduating, many of the 35 third year students will go on to run their companies on a full-time basis.

Among the fledgling firms launched by Team Entrepreneurship students are:

· Crowdreach – An agency which helps entrepreneurs raise capital through crowdfunding. Formed by undergraduates Rob Wilson, Bradley Green and Will Dooley, the business has raised more than £135,000 for a variety of innovative products since it was established 18 months ago.

· Pelico – A healthy food delivery service developing meals using locally-sourced and organic ingredients, transporting them to time-strapped office workers by electric vehicle. The company – started by Leyth Hampshire and Alex Gatehouse – has been accepted onto the Seed Fund accelerator programme for promising food industry start-ups.

· Unique Insights – Uses sophisticated analytical software to help universities reduce their undergraduate drop-out rates. Two universities have agreed to use the system and another five have expressed an interest in the approach, devised by Jamie Rawsthorne and George Sanderson.

· Classic Bahnstormers – A business buying and restoring classic BMWs. Steve Curtis, the company’s founder, plans to open a dealership having secured premises in Gloucestershire.

Up to 60 students a year are now joining the ground-breaking BA (Hons) Team Entrepreneurship course which was inspired by successful methods pioneered in Finland and tested in Spain and Hungary. The programme’s undergraduates – known as Team Entrepreneurs – develop skills in everything from event and budget management to marketing, PR and graphic design.

Adrian Rivers, Lead for the BA in Team Entrepreneurship programme, hailed the course a major success.

He said: “Those that join the course come here because our Team Entrepreneurship is a radical programme suited to those that want to develop and practice entrepreneurial skills.

“Students put into practice the topics that they would learn about on a traditional business degree and their learning is embedded as they reflect on their experience with the support of a Team Coach and other University academics. When students are learning about marketing, they are actually doing it and when they are learning about finance, they are actually doing it.”

Mr Rivers said the students, known as Team Entrepreneurs, are actively involved in the running of the course which is structured to feed undergraduates’ creativity and strengthen their self-reliance.

He said: “The Coaches and other staff on the programme give huge amounts of support to the students, but we don’t spoon feed them. They have to spot the opportunities and make the best of the programme. That’s what entrepreneurs do – make the best of the opportunities around them.

“Rather than waiting in the classroom to be told what to learn, the students have to practise being self-reliant in order to be successful.

“What everyone says is the students on this course have a degree of maturity, self-reliance and confidence which is above what you would expect.”

Following the success of the degree programme, a master’s course in Enterprise and Entrepreneurship will be launched at UWE Bristol from September which will use the same methods as the undergraduate programme. Both courses will be based in the new £50 million Faculty of Business and Law building on Frenchay campus from December.

Of the new course, Mr Rivers said: “It will be a one-year programme based on the Team Entrepreneurship principles. It is ideally suited to people who might have a business idea they want to develop or who might be looking to develop ideas in the future.”

Former music teacher Steve Curtis, 31, founder of car restoration start-up Classic Bahnstormers, is among the students preparing to graduate from the course on Monday (July 18).

He said: “I had always bought and sold cars as a hobby, making a few hundred pounds here and there, but I wanted to make it scalable. This course has shown me just that – how to build a brand, develop a reputation and have people coveting your work. Throughout the course the support we have received from our Team Coaches has been staggering.”

Andy Francksen, founder of Target Student, which connects SMEs in Bristol with the local student market through a range of cost-effective promotional services, said: “The biggest thing that I have learnt on the course is the ability to work in teams. I have also grown in confidence and can now speak to anyone in any situation. If you go through this course your mindset will change for life.”

Those sentiments were echoed by fellow student Jasmine Sommers, who said: “I have found this course amazing. It suits my needs as I have been able to be flexible with my learning within a supportive environment. I am a much better team player now, a better listener and much more employable.”

Toby Bartholomew, who established innovation consultancy services company Creative Monkey Solutions while on the course, said: “I can genuinely say that I am proud to have been on this course. I am proud of the person I have become and I am proud of the team that is around me. I would not change the process I have been through.”

Final pitch for business students at Enterprise Fair

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200 final year business students will take to the stage to compete for a series of prizes to highlight the best student business plans at UWE Bristol’s Enterprise Fair, from 10-12 noon this Saturday 14 May 2016 at the UWE Bristol Exhibition and Conference Centre (ECC).

The students will make a 30 second elevator pitch and take part in an assessed poster presentation to mark the final element of the Enterprise project, a final year dissertation module organised around the creation and development of a business plan.

Students have submitted business plans based around a wide range of business ventures covering everything from software applications to artisan food businesses, including a considerable number focused around sustainability.

Speaking about the significance of the Enterprise Fair, Bristol Business School’s Nick Kent, said, “The Enterprise Fair – which gives students the opportunity to pitch their business ideas in a public arena – really is the icing on the cake of the Enterprise Project module; a supervised dissertation module which sees students working up a business idea into a full business plan over the course of the final year of their degrees.

“This is the second time that we’ve run this particular event and we’re hoping to build on the success that we had last year. Students take away the ability to create and develop a full business plan – a very transferable skill which will be equally valuable in the private, public or third sectors. The business plan draws on and integrates knowledge from a wide range of subjects including strategy, marketing, operations, and accounting and finance. The students also gain an appreciation that you need much more than just a good idea to prepare to launch a successful business.

“In essence we believe that the Enterprise Project provides an arena to enable students to create and develop a unique business opportunity by synthesising ideas from their prior learning, research that they’ve carried out, and their own individual creativity.”

There are a range of prizes for the best projects, all generously sponsored by Peter Fane of Nurture Landscapes, an alumnus of the University. Prizes include Best Enterprise Project, Best ‘sustainable’ Enterprise Project and two prizes for ‘The Projects with the Most Potential’.

Students are set to benefit from state-of-the art facilities, as the new building for the Faculty of Business and Law draws a step closer to completion. A ceremony recently took place to mark construction reaching the top floor of the landmark building with completion due for January 2017.

For more information on studying at UWE Bristol, visit the Faculty of Business and Law website.