A leading UK partnership brought together scores of students this week, including those from the University of Exeter, in a bid to arm them with the skills they need to set up their own business or climb the corporate ladder.
SETsquared, a collaboration between the universities of Bath, Bristol, Exeter, Southampton and Surrey, runs a wide programme of enterprise education events for students and says it is vital that the next generation of entrepreneurs are nurtured.
It adds that in an ever-more competitive graduate marketplace, employers are looking for competency-based skills, such as ability to pitch and business planning, on top of academic excellence.
On Tuesday (5th February) the partnership brought together some of the brightest sparks from universities across the South to arm them with those skills in a very hands-on way.
The SETsquared Student Enterprise Xing Workshop at the University of Surrey saw students from Bath, Bristol, Exeter, Southampton and Surrey put into mixed teams and given a hypothetical business idea, for which they had to create a three-year business plan in just a few hours.
Throughout the process they drew cards with phrases that had to be incorporated into their plans in the right place, such as gaining investment and acquiring an office.
Each team then pitched their plan to the judging panel - made up of business leaders and members of the Institute of Directors - who selected which had the most realistic plan.
SETsquared’s partnership director, Graham Harrison, said: “With growth being very much on the agenda of UK businesses at this time, employers are increasingly looking for graduates who have that entrepreneurial ‘x factor’. They need graduates who can not only ‘do the job’ but those who can think laterally, pitch ideas and work with a wider understanding of the business landscape.
“That’s why events like this are so important. As a partnership that is committed to supporting the growth of companies in the UK and developing the next generation of entrepreneurs, we were delighted to show some real action and host this event.”
Felicity Crane, who is studying Business and Retail Management at the University of Surrey, said: "I want to start my own business before I graduate, so this event is great because you get the opportunity to gain experience of business planning for a business scenario. Pitching live to a panel from local businesses was very nerve-wracking but excellent practice, hopefully in a few years’ time I'll be pitching to investors to raise finance for my own business."
Janet Preston, judge at the event and Director of Cold Fuzion, said: "It's absolutely essential that students today have a good understanding of the business environment, whether they want to start their own business or start their career within a corporate company. The event gave them invaluable, hands-on experience - not only are they having real business discussions but they are also developing the influencing, negotiation, pitching and team work skills needed to be effective in a commercial environment."
Alexandra Kononova and Mark Milton from the University of Exeter were in the winning team 'Food People', which walked away with a £350 prize.
To find out about future events being run by SETsquared visit www.setsquared.co.uk
SETsquared is a collaboration between the universities of Bath, Bristol, Exeter, Southampton and Surrey which partners in enterprise activities and collectively supports the growth and success of new business opportunities through spin-outs, licensing, incubation and education. The partnership also works with industry through research collaboration and consultancy.