St. James’s Place holds innovation challenge for local schools

On Friday 11 October, St. James’s Place Wealth Management (SJP) held an innovation challenge day for five SEND schools and colleges from across Gloucestershire in combination with Local Enterprise Partnership – GFirst LEP. The free to enter competition welcomed teams of five to six students to pitch an idea on the subject of ‘What does the office of the future need to look like to make work accessible for all?’. The winning team receives the opportunity to undertake work experience at SJP’s Cirencester head office.

During the innovation challenge, students were assigned a business mentor to assist them on the different stages of the competition. They were then asked to think of an idea, consider the finances of getting it off the ground and, finally, present their proposal to a specially selected panel of judges. Teams were scored on their demonstration of knowledge, marketing plans and financial overview, with the judges announcing the winner to be one of the teams from National Star College.

Whilst the judges deliberated the winner, the students were shown a presentation created by Rhys Joyce, former pupil at National Star and now an employee at SJP. Rhys’ presentation covered his transition into the workplace following an introduction to Jonathan McMahon, Joint Chief Operating Officer at SJP, during a function at his college. Jonathan invited Rhys to shadow him for a day at work and, following this experience, Rhys approached SJP about further opportunities and was accepted for a position in Cirencester, which he started in September 2018.

Katey Gaunt, Early Careers Engagement Specialist at St. James’s Place was the key driver behind the event. She pitched the idea to SJP after realising the difference opportunities like this could make to students. Katey said: ‘The excitement in the room today has been simply amazing, watching the interactions between the students and the encouragement and comfort they have given each other has been so inspiring. I very much look forward to holding events like this next year and beyond.’

Vicki Foster, Head of Inclusion and Diversity at St. James’s Place, said: ‘This competition has been an excellent opportunity for St. James’s Place to foster the innovative instincts amongst these bright and enthusiastic students. Working with GFirst LEP to select SEND schools means we can offer opportunities like this to students who may not have received them before. It has been a real pleasure to watch the students develop their concept into a compelling pitch and we have been very impressed with their innovative ideas. I look forward to welcoming the winning team for their work experience in the coming months.’

In the Government’s 2017 Careers Strategy it was recognised that to help young people to make good career decisions they need to have encounters with a range of employers. Additionally, to acquire the skills and qualifications they need to succeed in the workplace, they need regular exposure to the world of work. The innovation challenge initiative, developed in conjunction with St. James’s Place, aims to help young people develop their business awareness and entrepreneurial skills, whilst at the same time rehearsing critical soft skills including interpersonal communication, negotiation, planning, project management, time management and presentation skills.

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