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Students complete 'The Apprentice'

Y12 Community Apprentice Programme       

May17 envision prog 8 boardroom challenge merchants academy team pri bristol 2016 17 copy

Throughout this academic year, some Y12 students have been taking part in a 10-month Community-Apprentice programme, which has recently been recognised by the Department of Education as an effective model for employer engagement, and inspiring students to develop their employability skills while tackling real-life problems. The programme ran across ten schools throughout Bristol and was led by staff from Envision. It involved numerous inter-school challenges throughout the programme, and allowed students the opportunity to practice essential employability skills.

Envision logo


Business mentors help students tackle real-life problems

Throughout the programme the students received business mentoring from the University of Bristol. The university mentors supported the students at key points during the programme, which, like the TV series ‘The Apprentice’, required students to demonstrate personal qualities whilst working in teams to manage their own projects.  Throughout the programme each team strived to make the biggest positive impact on their community, rather than the most profit.

Students could decide to tackle whatever issues mattered most to them, but they had to reach a consensus within their team about what that was. The students from Merchants’ Academy split into two teams. Team PRI decided to tackle teenage pregnancy with the aim of running educational workshops for Y9 students in the local area. Team MPA focused on mental health and planned to tackle the stigma surrounding mental health issues by working with a local charity to train teachers and students on how to help those with difficulties.

One of the univeristy mentors, Sophie Duncombe - Publications Assistant, who worked with the Y12 students said,

“It was great to see the students tackling such sensitive subjects in such a positive way. I enjoyed watching the teams work together demonstrating great communication skills between themselves.”


Developing employability skills

The competition required all students to develop four key skills; teamwork, resilience and problem solving, organisation and communication.  Throughout the programme the students built on these skills through the various challenges set. The first of these, the Film Challenge, developed team-work and communication skills by challenging teams to produce a film of no more than two minutes explaining why their issue mattered in a single take! The next challenge would be the Pitching Challenge, which saw both teams present to a panel of ‘Dragons’, developing their public speaking skills, organisation and problem solving. 


Students earn praise from business leaders and Mayor in the ‘Dragons’ Den’

On Wednesday 7th December both teams completed the Pitching Challenge, presenting their projects to a panel of ‘Dragons’, leaders in the local business community, for the chance to win up to £100 to fund their projects.

The event was held in the impressive surroundings of The Bristol Hotel and kindly sponsored by Great Western Railway. The event was opened by a message from the Mayor of Bristol, Marvin Rees, who acted as the kinder version of Lord Sugar for the programme. He thanked the students for “tackling issues close to his heart and critical for the city’s future” and he pledged his support for their participation in the programme saying, “I and other people in Bristol are determined to offer you the platform you need to grow into the fullness of your potential.”

Overall, twenty teams from schools across the city pitched in front of each other as well as the panel, giving students the opportunity to watch others to learn what makes a successful pitch, whilst gaining experience and confidence to develop their own communication skills.

Tom Prince, a ‘Dragon’ and the Widening Participation and Undergraduate Recruitment Officer team at the University of Bristol said,

“I thoroughly enjoyed my role as a ‘Dragon’, the students were brilliant - it's clear that they and the mentors have worked incredibly hard and it was genuinely impressive to see them all present with such confidence and professionalism.”


Both teams at Merchants’ Academy earned praise from the panel of business leaders and each received funding towards their community projects. One of the students said, “today I have learnt to be more confident and really enjoyed public speaking in front of the panel.”




Taking action to benefit others

After the Pitching Challenge both teams reflected on their achievements and the impact the experience had had on themselves and others.

Team MHA received expert training from a local mental health charity Off the Record. With this new knowledge and expertise, they then held a teacher training workshop to better inform the academy staff on how to support students to look after their mental health. They cleverly adapted this training to then deliver a whole year assembly to raise awareness of mental health issues and the support available to younger students.

May17 envision prog 6 project photo 2 merchants academy team mha bristol 2016 17 copy


Team PRI thoroughly researching their topic of teenage pregnancy, receiving advice and guidance from 4YP who provide contraception for young people, and Brook a national sexual health service. The team then designed an informative workshop for younger students including a before and after questionnaire to help them learn about the consequences and prevention of teenage pregnancy. They went on to deliver these workshops to over ninety Y9 students at the academy whilst also giving out leaflets, keyrings and pens to help spread their message in a creative way.

May17 envision prog 6 project photo 2 merchants academy team pri bristol 2016 17 copy


The final challenge: Evidencing employability skills

The Boardroom Challenge was the final inter-schools phase of the programme. Each team produced digital stories in the form of short videos and these were played during their boardroom meeting.

May17 envision prog 8 boardroom challenge merchants academy team mha bristol 2016 17 copy

Students had to present their projects to a panel of judges including senior academy staff and Liam Dowson, Widening Participation and Undergraduate Recruitment Officer at the University of Bristol. As well as evidencing, how they had helped other people, they were also required to clearly articulate their own development during the programme drawing on specific examples.

The judges were really impressed with both teams and have invited them to continue their projects to reach more students and staff throughout the school in the future.


Skills utilised and scenarios experienced throughout the competition will provide the students with examples to use in interviews for further education or jobs. Employers are increasingly interested in transferable skills, like team working and problem solving, and the programme aims to help students to know how to evidence examples which demonstrate these skills.

Whatever the results in the competition, it is clear that all the Y12 students have really enjoyed the experience, made a difference for others, and gained a lot from it themselves.

Well done to the Y12 students who participated this year, the next Envision programme with begin in September 2017, with some new Y12 participants.

Content provided by Eleanor Lloyd, Envision Programme Support Officer


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