Norfolk college spearheading can-do business approach among students

A Norfolk college is spearheading a pioneering scheme to bridge the gap between education and employment by creating a new generation of entrepreneurs - as youth unemployment hit record levels.

City College Norwich is one five higher education institutions across the country to found a new 'Gazelle' group formed of private and public sector leaders which will focus on helping thousands of students battling to find work form their own companies capable of quick growth.

Backed by leading entrepreneurs including Dragon's Den stars Peter Jones and Doug Richards, the aim of the venture will be to transform the way further education is delivered by focusing on the core skills students will need to succeed in business from starting up a company to marketing and give them a 'can-do' attitude to getting a job by helping them set up their own businesses.

Mentoring is also key to the project and college principle Dick Palmer, urged Norfolk businesses to come forward and play a role in helping the next generation get the business skills they need.

'This is transformational for us,' Mr Palmer said. 'We are talking about changing the whole curriculum. Whereas up until now a young person could come to college for a couple of years and study for a qualification, they will now learn about setting up their own company, creating their own websites.'

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The launch comes as the number of 16-24 year olds looking for work rose to more than 1m - the highest figure since records began in the 1990s, while total unemployment rose to 2.62m.

In Norfolk and Waveney the latest figures show 20,030 people were out of work up from 19,760 in August and 18,990 a year ago. Of these 6,685 were 16-24 year olds, up for 6,320 in August and 6,020 a year ago.

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Mr Palmer said all of the college's 14,000 students would all benefit from the new approach, which is due to fully rolled out next September following a successful pilot.

'This will help them become more employable,' he added. 'We've set this up to see how we can use entrepreneurs the pretty major problems which affect most of our students and how further education can be the vehicle for helping students create wealth and new opportunities for themselves.

'We'll be looking at how we can broaden the college curriculum so that it's much more geared towards learning how to start up a business and become self-employed.

'If more and more young people are becoming 'NEET' (not in education, employment or training) why aren't colleges up and down the country doing something about it?'

Youngsters will also benefit from the experience of 'entrepreneurs in residence' comprised of students who have successfully set up their own companies.

City College Norwich is pioneering an innovative new learning facility, it's StartUp Lounge, which will provide a hub for enterprise education for all students to access.

Due to open later this month on the college's Ipswich Road campus, it features different activity areas where students will hone the full range of enterprise and employability skills needed to get a job or start up their own enterprises - from developing new business ideas to pitching for cash investments.

'Students at City College Norwich will be among the first in the country to experience the benefits of belonging to an entrepreneurial college, getting to practice the skills that employers demand, and learning the entrepreneurial attributes to be able to set up their own businesses, in our unique StartUp Lounge,' Mr Palmer said . 'But we can't make it work on our own and we will need the business community in Norfolk to help us.'

Gazelle has been created by Generator Enterprises Ltd, a company founded by the five college principals that aims to transform the Further Education sector through entrepreneurship.

Each of the five partner colleges, which also includes New College Nottingham, Warwickshire College, North Hertfordshire College, and Gateshead College, is leading on a different aspect of entrepreneurial education, from curriculum development to providing the infrastructure required by entrepreneurial colleges.

The Gazelle group of colleges are joined by Gazelle entrepreneurs, who include Dragons' Den's Peter Jones and Doug Richard, Luke Johnson, founder of Risk Capital Partners, and Lara Morgan, founder of Pacific Direct, who will bring their knowledge and experience of building and growing successful enterprises to the classroom.

Doug Richard, founder of School for Startups and a Gazelle Entrepreneur, said: 'I am a firm believer that entrepreneurship can be taught and must be learned and that's why I am getting involved in an initiative that puts entrepreneurship at its core.

'We need a new generation of entrepreneurs who will deliver the young, fast-growth, gazelle businesses that create the new jobs, wealth and innovation, and the Further Education sector plays a critical part in delivering on this.'

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