FOR the directors at Youth Enterprise CIC, 2013 has been a “phenomenal” year – and they expect more of the same in 2014.

In January, the team, based at Staffordshire University Business Village in Stoke, launched the first National Enterprise Challenge with backing from Lord Alan Sugar.

Now the not-for-profit company is recruiting high schools to take part in the second challenge as it aims to raise the aspirations of young people across the country.

Not only that, Youth Enterprise has been granted a 12-month extension to its contract to deliver the Government’s flagship Start-up Loans scheme, helping dozens of budding entrepreneurs get their ventures off the ground.

Director, Ben Dyer, said the next 12 months is shaping up to be an exciting time.

He said: “For us, this calendar year has been phenomenal.

“We started out in a community centre in Butt Lane with nothing, and now we are running a nationally recognised competition and a major Government contract which has already helped 75 start-up businesses.

“We are growing our school enterprise programme as well. We couldn’t have asked for a better outcome.”

Youth Enterprise CIC is experienced in providing enterprise education to young people, and has delivered programmes to more than 40,000 students.

These are events in which industry leaders take over a school day to work with pupils on a series of realistic challenges based on running a business.

The National Enterprise Challenge is this year being supported by Dragons’ Den star Theo Paphitis, and his company is the main sponsor.

Staffordshire University is also backing the competition for the second time.

In the National Enterprise Challenge, pupils are set real life business tasks which are focused on developing key employability skills.

Each school enters a number of teams who compete against each other, before the winning group attends the finals in July.

For the second challenge, Youth Enterprise expects around 120 schools and more than 25,000 students to take part.

It will be helped in its aim to reach as many young people as possible by Afford Rent A Car, in Fenton, which is supplying two vehicles under a sponsorship scheme.

The cars will be used by the Youth Enterprise team as it travels across the UK to work with the schools.

Ben said that the National Enterprise Challenge has been so successful there are plans to devise a similar event for other age groups.

He added: “We will be looking at funding streams for a few different projects.

“We also want to look at taking on a managing director and perhaps launch a competition aimed at primary school or college students.

“The challenge is growing all the time and it is fantastic to have as the sponsor, and the backing of Theo Paphitis.

“It is also important to point out the support we have had in North Staffordshire with Afford Rent A Car and Staffordshire University getting on board with us.

“We are looking forward to the next 12 months.”

Youth Enterprise CIC is entering The Sentinel Business Awards in the Small Business of the Year category, sponsored by Stoke-on-Trent City Council.

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