BANBRIDGE Academy swept the board at an event to celebrate local business talent last week.
The ‘Your Future in Business’ Gala Graduation honoured a number of schools, with the Academy scooping three prizes on the day.
The school won in te Company Programmer section as well as the Company 25 category. Pupil Neil Cunningham was also nominated in the Institute of Directors Entrepreneur of the Future category.
Education Minister John O’Dowd attended the event, along with two former Apprentice stars.
As well as recognising the students’ business successes throughout the year, the awards ceremony also encouraged the young entrepreneurs to continue their careers in business. ‘Jedi’ Jim Eastwood, Enterprise Ambassador for Young Enterprise Northern Ireland, has supported Company Programme throughout the academic year, and James McCullagh, finalist of ‘Young Apprentice’ gave the students advice on personal PR and ‘branding oneself’, in order to gain a competitive edge in job and university interviews.
The celebration, which was hosted by Young Enterprise Northern Ireland and sponsored by Invest Northern Ireland, recognised achievement within several business categories including the winners of the Company Programme and Team Programme, as well as recognising the efforts of local business volunteers who mentor and support the young people throughout the school year.
Approximately 50 Centres of Excellence awards were also given to schools which had demonstrated a strong commitment to the development of enterprise skills of their students over recent years.
Education Minister John O’Dowd said: “I welcome the opportunity to be here today to celebrate the achievements of everyone involved with the Company and Team Programmes. I had the pleasure of attending a Young Enterprise Trade Fair last month and it was inspiring to see first-hand the enthusiasm and professionalism of the students selling their products.
“My Department understands the value of developing the employability skills of all young people. School is not solely about academic performance. Our society needs school-leavers with the skills required to perform in the workplace. These programmes help our young people develop these skills. We, in education and in business, have a responsibility to help shape the career paths of our young people and give them every opportunity to succeed in the future.”
Bill Scott, Invest NI’s Director of Regional Economic Development, said: “The recently launched Programme for Government highlights the important role enterprise has to play in rebalancing our economy. New business start-ups are a great source of innovation and new ideas, wealth creation and employment. Invest NI believes that young people have a huge role to play in developing the successful businesses of the future.”
Over 1,500 students took part in the programme which generated over 100 student companies.