Q&A with Peter Jones

25 June 2012

Q: What are Peter Jones Enterprise Academies

A: They’re my contribution to help encourage young people to be more entrepreneurial – great for their future and the economy of the country.

Our curriculum is weighted towards engagement with companies and entrepreneurs who share experiences, provide workplace assignments and real-life business challenges.

Students get a BTEC qualification and network with hundreds of companies during the one-year course, such as Alfa Romeo, Grant Thornton and Orange.

We work mainly with 16 and 17-year-olds but are now also reaching out to younger and older learners.

Q: What are the benefits for employers?

A: It’s not just about leaving us ready to be your own boss. Lots of our students are sought after because they understand about business and can hit the ground running in the workplace with the skills and confidence they develop.

Employers who engage with us once tend to stay connected. National accountancy practice Grant Thornton was the first company to back my bid in 2008 to open a network of enterprise academies. They are now a partner as part of a five-year contract, which connects them to our curriculum and students.

Our Advanced Apprenticeship in Enterprise follows a similar model to our full time BTEC but is aimed at entrepreneurial employees. It is good for those working in business development, sales, project manager or serial entrepreneurs wanting to incubate a business from within an existing business.

Q: What resources are available to help the students enter a profession like purchasing should they wish to?

A: Our curriculum covers a broad range of topics relevant to business and entrepreneurship. Within these modules, lots of areas are covered in more depth.

At the start we try to encourage students to discover and understand their passions in life. From here, they can start to map out their own journey towards achieving our qualifications. So, if purchasing is of specific interest, the course can become very relevant to those students via specific business engagement, carefully selected work placements, mentoring and ‘surgeries’ with visitors who come into the academy to help students understand specific subjects.

Typically, our students are very proactive. They won’t wait around to be pointed in a particular direction, they will find the things and people they need to be successful. We absolutely encourage this, it’s a big part of what makes us different to other educational organisations.

Q: What made the CIPS negotiation challenge stand out as something valuable to do?

A: All entrepreneurs need to be skilled negotiators, especially when starting out because cash flow is usually tight. The CIPS challenge provided a great opportunity for students to learn first hand from practised negotiators, both through theory and practical experience. A CIPS member acted as a mentor throughout and accompanied the team to the final to advise on tactics. I am certain our students will be able to negotiate a deal much better than some do on Dragons’ Den in the future!

Q: What advice do you have on getting young people interested in business and procurement?

A: Make the effort to be interesting and relevant, and package information in a way that sparks passion. This is easier said than done. We try to find ‘heroes’ – the businessmen and women with the best life stories – and get them to talk to honestly and openly. Students find these inspirational and personal. The heroes of procurement should make themselves known, get out there and meet more young people and tell them, through honest personal accounts, what it means to procure services for amazing things like, for example, London 2012. That's a great way to make the story of procurement ‘sticky’ and engaging.

☛   Click here to find out more about Peter Jones

☛    A focus on how to manage, recruit and retain talent will appear in the July issue of SM

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