Learning and Teaching News [Archived stories]

Leeds undergraduates dominate National Entrepreneurship Final

Charlotte Fayle, a 21-year-old Biology student has been crowned the "UK's Most Enterprising Student" at the Shell STEP National Final awards for developing an energy reduction service which is set to generate a £300,000 turnover for her host business.

Jonathan Hutchinson, a 22-year-old Geography student, was named runner-up for generating up to 30% cuts in his host company's energy policy.

The Shell Step placement programme provides undergraduates and recent graduates with relevant and meaningful work experience through tailored eight week placements with small and medium-sized businesses across the UK. Around 600 students are placed every year and there have been around 23,000 work experience placements since the programme began in 1986.

Charlotte said: "I'm over the moon to have won this award from Shell! I had no previous business experience before I did the placement and never thought I would have achieved what I did. The opportunity to gain a new understanding of business and develop my communication skills has been invaluable and I feel sure it will help me when I move into the world of work."

The University of Leeds Careers Centre manages the scheme in West and North Yorkshire and supported Charlotte and Jonathan through the whole process. Bob Gilworth, Director of the Careers Centre, said: "We were delighted to get two Leeds students through to the national final, and overjoyed that they took first and second places. Not only have Charlotte and Jonathan gained fantastic experience, they have also made a real impact on two local businesses who are thrilled with their contributions.

"As far as we know, this is the first time that a single University has provided both the national winner and runner-up in the same year."

The awards ceremony in London featured keynote speeches from David Lammy MP, Minister for Higher Education and Intellectual Property, and Wes Streeting, President of the National Union of Students.

Lammy said: "I would like to congratulate both our most enterprising young students and the Shell STEP programme which has led the way in providing opportunities for undergraduates in small businesses for over 20 years. These students have shown that Britain's young people have got talent and are worth backing.

"Internships are a great way to set students on the path to success offering them the chance to get a taste of a type of work they might not previously have considered as well as building the sorts of skills and experience that prospective employers really value."

Robert Cardis, Managing Director of RCE Services UK Ltd, said: "The Shell Step placement far exceeded our expectations and we're delighted that Charlotte has been recognised for the fantastic contribution she made to the business. She began with an open brief and, through showing great initiative, managed to secure an opportunity for a contract worth £250,000 by the end of the placement. She is destined for great things and we wish her all the best in whatever career she pursues."

James Smith, Chairman of Shell UK, said: "Work experience can help students stand out in the job market. Charlotte and Jonathan have clearly made the most of this chance. Their go-ahead style on their projects have been good for them and their host businesses. We wish them the best of luck with their future career."

This year, people who graduated from a UK university in 2008 and those that were about to graduate in 2009 were also invited to apply in recognition of the tough job market create by the recession.

20th October 2009