Young environmental entrepreneurs put through their paces

The next generation of budding environmental entrepreneurs were put to the test this week with a series of challenges at an event in Cardiff Bay’s Pierhead and Senedd buildings.

The Heads of the Valleys Cluster CRE8 event, which was held in collaboration with Careers Wales, Business in the Community (BITC), and Nest, saw groups from eight schools competing against each other to market an energy efficient product of their own design.

The event was the culmination of a series of Business Class competitions, aimed at improving school pupils’ understanding of the world of work and career choices.

In previous stages, students were asked to design and create an energy efficient product from recyclable materials across the cluster of Business Class schools, including Abertillery Comprehensive, Afon Taf High School, Bishop Hedley High School, Brynmawr School, Cyfarthfa High School, Ebbw Fawr Learning Community, Greenfield School, and Pen-Y-Dre High School.

With the help of leading businesses such as British Gas, Carillion, Dŵr Cymru, and Tesco, the groups were asked to complete a final business finance exercise to market their products, which included a hydrotherapy pool powered by kinetic energy, a windmill combining three different types of energy, and an environmentally friendly vehicle, before presenting their overall business proposal.

The groups were judged on their design, team work, and presentation, with ‘Compost Companions’ from Cyfarthfa High School announced as the overall winners at the end of the day with their design using food waste as a biomass to generate energy.

The event was also attended by Cabinet Secretary, Lesley Griffiths, who spoke to the teams about their designs and ideas during the morning session of challenges.

Richard Spear, chief executive at Careers Wales, said: “By bringing this cluster of schools together, our aim was to provide the young people involved with the opportunity to take part in an activity which enabled them to develop work and personal skills.

“The challenges also provided them with additional knowledge on business proposals, design and marketing, and showcased how STEM subjects can lead to a variety of different career paths other than those you would usually expect.

“Currently, 11% of the total workforce in Wales is employed in energy and environment, with that number set to grow over the next five years thanks to the variety of developments and opportunities in the sector in Wales, so it’s important to highlight the many options available to young people in this country through events like this.”

Matt Appleby, Director of Business in the Community Cymru, added: “This event reflects what Business Class is all about - bringing practical, real-world experiences to young people and giving pupils of all abilities the opportunity to interact and engage with professionals.

“All of the students who participated in the competition were given the opportunity to develop many work related skills including, teamwork, communication, problem solving, resilience and creative thinking.

“Working with Careers Wales and organisations like Nest, we are equipping young people to build successful and fulfilling working lives - providing them with the support, knowledge and practical skills they need to thrive”.

The Business Class programme aims to improve school pupils’ understanding of the world of work and career choices by linking them with businesses for collaboration and engagement opportunities, providing support across four key areas; leadership and governance, curriculum, enterprise and employability and wider issues.

Lesley Griffiths, Cabinet Secretary for Environment and Rural Affairs, said:

“I am delighted the Welsh Government Warm Homes Nest team has been able to host this year’s CRE8 inter-schools competition.

“The excellent Business Class programme builds lasting partnerships between businesses and schools in Wales and helps students develop their employability skills.

“Who knows, this event may even inspire some to consider a career in Wales’ growing energy efficiency industry.”