Students improve employability skills though Burnley Mechanics challenge
Enterprising students from the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) have been boosting their employability skills through a live challenge set by a Burnley charity.
The Big Ideas Challenge invited students from a variety of disciplines to respond to a live brief set by the Burnley Mechanics entertainment and performance venue, which tasked the groups to come up with new and innovative ways to make use of its space to benefit the local community.
The 25 students, from courses as diverse as business and social work, worked together in teams before pitching their ideas to a panel of judges. They were not only judged on their overall idea, but on problem solving, presentation, use of social media and communication. Hobs PLC provided a virtual reality experience of Burnley Mechanics to allow the groups to learn as much as possible about the space they were working in. Ideas included a multi-purpose library facility, a community kitchen, and a business start-up hub. The winning team, Sapphire Eagles, was commended by the panel for its idea to use the space for a children’s library and learning zone to improve literacy rates.
"It was fantastic to work on a brief set by a local company in a live environment and to win the award just makes me feel more confident in my abilities."
Helen Jones, Head of Cultural Services for Burnley Leisure which runs the Mechanics venue, said: “The students have given Burnley Mechanics a new voice. It was nice to see that in all of their ideas, they recognised the historical importance of the venue while at the same time coming up with new and innovative ways to make use of the building and make something that is 160-years-old relevant to the modern Burnley community.”
In addition, four students were awarded for their individual performance during what was the second Big Ideas Challenge run by the University’s student enterprise and incubation and careers teams.
Recent MA Architecture graduate Andrew Paul won the award for Best Contribution to the Team Presentation, Christian Hopes, a business and marketing student, was handed a prize for his teamwork and leadership qualities, law student Sabbah Shah won the Best Use of Social Media award and Maureen Kalane, who is currently completing a PhD in Cross-Cultural Communication, won a prize for overall team contribution.
Maureen commented: “I came here with an open mind and thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience. It was fantastic to work on a brief set by a local company in a live environment and to win the award just makes me feel more confident in my abilities.”
Russell Hogarth, UCLan Honorary Fellow, Community Ambassador and Northern Lights Entrepreneur in Residence was one of the judges.
He said: "I was delighted to be asked again today to be a judge on the UCLan Big Ideas Challenge and as in previous years it was a pleasure to listen to the students’ presentations, which were delivered with both passion and enthusiasm."
"Today's business proposals by our University students were certainly equal to a number of well-established businesses that I've worked with over the years."
He continued: “The quality of each presentation certainly reflected the amount of time and effort that each student had contributed to the task. Judging such high quality work and deciding an overall winner for all the different categories was extremely difficult and each presentation seemed to have its own outstanding qualities.
“As the entrepreneur in residence for UCLan Northern Lights I am often asked to evaluate a business proposition and comment on its feasibility. Today's business proposals by our University students were certainly equal to a number of well-established businesses that I've worked with over the years. I would like to congratulate all the students on their outstanding efforts and wish them every success in the future.
“In addition to thanking Burnley Mechanics for their fabulous support, I would like to thank my fellow judges and the UCLan staff working in careers and student enterprise and incubation.”
The Big Idea Challenge offers networking opportunities for students and graduates to speak directly with social entrepreneurs, technology innovators, corporate finance specialists and careers experts, as well as the 40+ business tenants of the UCLan Business Incubation Area. It is supported by the European Regional Development Fund U Start project.
View images from the Big Ideas Challenge on the UCLan Flickr gallery.