06 December 2016

Inspiring students in Ashford

‚ÄčA unique partnership between an Ashford high school, Premier Foods and a national charity has been bringing lessons to life for a group of students.

On Thursday, 1 Dec North School pupils studying for their BTec Level 3 in Business Studies found themselves presenting their ideas for a new product to a panel of experts from our Ashford site.

The team set the teenagers a challenge to come up with their own soup variety, carry out market testing, design the packaging and put forward marketing proposals for it.

The event, inspired by the IGD - the Institute of Grocery Distribution - was the second project to bring together the school and Premier Foods and more are planned.

“The first event we organised was a session designed to help the students with their CVs and talk to them about improving their employability,” explained Batchelors’ HR and development officer Raluca Birken.

“That proved very successful and so we talked to Vernice Lamberton, our contact at the school, about what else would be helpful. She suggested that the business studies department would like some input into their lessons and so we got our innovation team to look at what they could do.”

The innovation team, led by business improvement and innovation manager Adrian Sillitoe, led a workshop that explained how they went about creating a new product – in this case a new flavour of soup – and then set the pupils the challenge of working through the same process.

It resulted in a fascinating follow-up session at the school on Thursday, when groups of pupils outlined their plans for a range of products, from roast dinner flavoured soup to sweet soup flavours and chocolate on a stick.

Their plans were judged by Adrian and a number of his colleagues, but the learning experience made everyone a winner.

IGD engagement manager Karine Barsam explained that the charity worked to support companies in the food and grocery business and was also keen to engage with young people who might be looking for a career in the industry.

Chief executive Joanne Denney-Finch described the event as “a fantastic example of how Premier Foods is inspiring students by bringing the curriculum to life and demonstrating how lessons in the classroom can be applied to the world of work.”

She added: “The partnership between Premier Foods and The North School builds on IGD’s very successful Feeding Britain’s Future schools programme, which brings the industry together to inspire the next generation by providing insight into the variety of roles within the food and grocery industry.”
Vernice Lamberton, the North’s careers manager and sixth form tutor in finance and business administration, said the day had been “an amazing experience” and thanked the Premier Foods team for “their inspirational work with a great set of pupils”.

One of the pupils, 18 year-old Lauren Best, said presenting to the panel had been “terrifying” until she relaxed and got into her stride. “It’s been a really great experience,” she said. “I loved the way we were able to take our learning outside the classroom and apply it to a real business model. I’ve learned a lot and I think this is a fantastic initiative.”

The good news for Lauren and the other pupils at the North is that the aim is for the partnership to continue. Both Vernice and Raluca said Premier Foods and the school hoped to come up with more joint initiatives that would both help pupils and allow the company to raise its profile in the community.

“Young people are our future and we have been really impressed at their enthusiasm and their ideas,” said Raluca. “The great thing about this IGD initiative is that it is open-ended, so we can develop it in any number of ways.”

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