10 July 2017

A scheme to help young people across Sunderland interact with businesses and discover the qualifications and skills needed in specific sectors has helped a school scoop a major award.

Washington’s St Robert of Newminster Catholic School devised the innovative plan for the annual Business Problem Solving Challenge, which was held on the final day of this year’s Work Discovery Week (30 June).

St Robert’s beat off competition from a number of the city’s secondary schools for its well thought out idea to take first place – for the third year in succession.

Students were given the opportunity to put forward their ideas to a panel of business experts – made up of representatives from many of the Work Discovery Week’s sponsors.

MAKE It Sunderland, Sunderland College, The University of Sunderland, The Bridges, Sunderland BID, Accenture, Gentoo and the North East LEP joined day sponsor Calsonic Kansei to hear the pitches and decide on a winner.

Presentations from the schools covered everything from a culinary bus to a candle making scheme, along with an app showcasing opportunities in volunteering to futuristic jet boots.

Farringdon Community Academy took the runner-up prize for its money saving football boot which could interchange studs and blades, but it was St Robert’s careers promotions initiative which wowed the judges.

Students gave a short presentation at the Stadium of Light and then had to take questions from the panel.

John Whitfield, of day sponsor Calsonic Kansei, praised the young people who took part.

“Every one of the ideas was brilliantly thought out and gave the panel a really tough time in choosing a winner,” he said.

“I don’t doubt for one minute that some of these projects really could become viable and we all look forward to seeing them moving forward.

“It’s hard enough to present in front of an audience and add that to having to answer questions from a panel, the young people proved they are absolutely remarkable.”

The Problem Solving Challenge was the final day of a packed Work Discovery Week, which opened at the Stadium of Light with around 1000 young people taking part in a range of activities.

Students also took part in a number of visits throughout the week to various businesses along with getting involved in a retail sector day in the Bridges.

Plans are now underway for next year’s event which will run from 25 – 29 June 2018.