Pupils prove they can do the business

eam Empower, winners of the Rio Tinto Alcan Challenge 2011 from left to right: Alex Maddison, Matthew Nichol, Joe Murgatroyd and Thomas Meaney with Jennifer, Snelson, Rio Tinto Alcan communities specialist (foreground/centre) and Andy Gaskell, director of enterprise and vocational studies with the Ashington Learning Partnership (back row/centre).
eam Empower, winners of the Rio Tinto Alcan Challenge 2011 from left to right: Alex Maddison, Matthew Nichol, Joe Murgatroyd and Thomas Meaney with Jennifer, Snelson, Rio Tinto Alcan communities specialist (foreground/centre) and Andy Gaskell, director of enterprise and vocational studies with the Ashington Learning Partnership (back row/centre).

students have been given the chance to find out if they’ve got what it takes to run an aluminium smelter.

More than 20 youngsters aged 14 and 15-years took part in the inaugural Rio Tinto Alcan business challenge at the multinational firm’s Lynemouth smelter site.

The schools represented were Ashington High and Blyth Community College, along with Haydon Bridge High and Alnwick’s Duchess High.

Jennifer, Snelson, communities specialist at the aluminium plant, said: “We devised the activity in conjunction with the Ashington learning partnership to engage with secondary school students and give them a valuable insight into the world of business and industry.

“The aim is to provide students with an innovative and practical learning experience by bringing together individuals from different schools and challenging them to work together in small teams to tackle real business issues.”

The student-led mini-businesses were asked how they would tackle the kind of real-life challenges that employees at Rio Tinto Alcan have to contend with on a regular basis.

The week-long activity culminated in the teams working together to make a series of decisions on a limited budget and presenting the business case for them to a Dragons’ Den-style judging panel made up of Rio Tinto Alcan staff.

The winning team consisted of a mixture of pupils from Ashington High, Blyth Community College and Haydon Bridge High, namely Thomas Meaney, Leanne Flanagan, Rachel Edwards, Leah Clarke, Kieran Hills, Luke Daniels, Karl Pritchard, Corey Wrigglesworth and Chris Richardson.

They were given £500 in shopping vouchers to share, as well as a trophy.

Andy Gaskell, director of enterprise and vocational studies at the Ashington learning partnership, said: “The students performed extremely well and worked together to produce practical and innovative strategies in a mature display of effective and supportive teamwork.”