From education to employment

Hospitality entrepreneurs win enterprise challenge

A team of young entrepreneurs from SERC have won the final of the colleges 2017 Enterprise Challenge. The competition was sponsored by Ards and North Down Borough Council and Translink.

‘Team X Mex’ beat stiff competition from their peers, with their idea for a mobile catering concept based around nachos.

Over 2,000 students and freshers took part in the competition which was designed to provide them with valuable employability skills in addition to acquiring a City and Guilds qualification. Students were tasked with competing in teams of five to create a real-world business concept, tailored towards each vocational area, which they then presented to a panel of judges.

The first phase of the challenge took place during the two-week induction, with student voting deciding who got through to the final. Since then, the six finalists have been working tirelessly to adapt, tweak and perfect their enterprising concepts.

From the initial 500 teams that took part, six teams made it through to the final, having previously impressed the judges at the regional heat which took place earlier in the month. Each team had to pitch their idea in a Dragons’ Den-style event to a prestigious panel of judges, in an attempt to win top prize, plus well-earned bragging rights.

Judges included SERC director Heather McKee, SERC enterprise manager Kieran McKenna and sponsor Karine McGurkin from Ards and North Down Borough Council. To add to the pressure, the pitches were streamed live via the SERC Media Centre. When the winners were announced Team X Mex were crowed College Champions.

The judging panel were very impressed with the winning team ‘X Mex’, comprising Christina McBratney, Tony McBratney, Andy Adamson and Nataleigh Cross who each won a tablet. The team are now working on getting their idea up and running in time for the Bangor Christmas light switch-on where they will be selling their produce. Runners up Crazy kid’s planters also impressed the judges with their novel approach to encouraging children to take an interest in houseplants.

The group of joinery trainees each received a three-month unlimited travel voucher courtesy of sponsors Translink.

Kieran McKenna said “it was a very close-run competition. A lot of students have thought outside the box and took an idea and run with it, and some have looked at previous ideas and wondered how they can enhance it and make it better. I would like to say thank you to our award sponsors Translink and Ards and North Down Borough Council. There was a lot of great ideas but I believe that X Mex were the right winners of the Enterprise Challenge. The thought that went into their idea was clear to see, and it was a well-thought out and detailed pitch. They worked well in a team and their presentation was clear and concise. I look forward to them developing their business idea and making it a commercial reality.”

Winning student Tony McBratney from Newtownards from team X Mex said “I really enjoyed the challenge. None of us knew each other before the competition, I felt it allowed us to get to know each other better. The first week of College can be very daunting, but it is a great idea to help make new friends. To win out of the many students who took part was a massive accomplishment and we are very grateful for the experience.”

Judge Karine McGuckin from Ards and North Down Borough Council said: “I was so impressed by all the teams competing. The day has been brilliant. The students were articulate with fantastic ideas. I would hire all of them! It was a close call but credit must go to Team X Mex. A special thank you must go to SERC mentors who give up their time to coach, support and inspire the students taking part.”

SERC director Heather McKee who was on the judging panel, commented: “At SERC we are committed to providing every student with the opportunity to improve their employability skills. In an increasingly challenging job market this has never been more essential. Employers have informed us that a qualification is now not enough anymore and students need to have much more in terms of skills and experience.  Project Based Learning was created with the aim of helping create an exciting and enjoyable way of learning about the College, while also helping students make new friends in a fun and informal manner. The two-week long competition also gave students an insight into the high standards at SERC and the importance of how hard work pays off.”

Run annually, SERC’s Enterprise Challenge is an inter-campus competition that aims to inspire knowledge, raise aspirations, confidence and employability. SERC recognises the incredible hard work students have produced and would like to say well done to all the students who competed at the Enterprise Showcase.

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