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Solving social challenges and developing business skills


Students have been focussing on how to solve some of the biggest social challenges facing the North East, as part of a brand new competition designed to develop innovation and enterprise.

The Careers Service at Newcastle University hosted the first ever ‘Rise Up Flux’ event last night, as students competed in teams to develop their ideas, before the grand finale, where they went head to head in a fast-paced pitch in front of a live audience of industry experts.

Twenty five of the region’s best business minds and graduate employers judged the teams and were on hand to give advice as they developed their pitches and honed their business skills. The theme of the event was ‘Innovation means collaboration’ where students were tasked with finding original solutions to connect the University with the communities of the North East.

The students were expected to develop, plan and present a strategy that addressed this social challenge. During a whole day of intense activity the teams were briefed and then with the help of facilitators they developed a visual commercial solution considering issues such as cash flow, equity and defining the business model.

They then spent time with business experts, refining their plans and assessing where improvements needed making, before making a nerve-wracking pitch to a panel of business ‘dragons’, who they had to convince that their solution would work.

Three winners went forward to the final, where they had to pitch head to head in front of the audience.

Some of the solutions included getting students to act as tutors in secondary schools to help pupils who may need some extra support in certain subjects and another where students would act as consultants for businesses.

Among the judges were Newcastle graduate Daisy Ford, who is now senior associate at Deloitte Newcastle and Sophie Adams, recruitment manager at John Lewis.

As a member of the Deloitte Audit team in Newcastle, Daisy works with a range of private and public sector organisations, including a number of entrepreneurial businesses in the region.

She said:  “I wanted to help out with this event because it seemed like a really interesting idea to test the skills of the students. Trying to solve problems from the real world means that this was an authentic experience for those who took part and they will have learned some valuable lessons which they can take forward when they start their careers.”

Sophie joined John Lewis as a graduate trainee at the Newcastle branch in 2001. Since 2008 she has been responsible for all graduate and placement recruitment across John Lewis.  

Sophie said: “I have been very impressed with the quality of many of the students today. There have been some really good ideas coming out of our discussions. I think it’s been really successful in bringing out the key issues that new businesses have to face such as where they are going to get investment from and how they are going to bring in revenue. And for me it was great chance to meet some of the people who may well be applying for jobs at John Lewis in the next few months and get to know them.”

Marc Lintern, Director of the Careers Service at Newcastle University, developed the Rise Up Flux idea. He said: “Flux is a great event for our students in so many ways. It gets them to think in creative ways which will really prepare them for either careers in the corporate world or if they decide they want to launch their own business. They are put under pressure and learn a lot about themselves and how they react.

“It was a great chance for our students to impress recruiters from some of the top companies in the North East and the UK, to really put themselves forward to get a great start in their careers. And it was a lot of fun!”

published on: 30 April 2013