Enterprise Education in Schools

Image of person who wrote blog.
Evan Gorrell

Enterprise education is an important part of the curriculum in our post-primary schools but what does this involve? In this blog, our Errigal College (Letterkenny) teacher Evan Gorrell tells us about the enterprise education programmes and activities in his school.

I have been fortunate enough to spearhead the enterprise education programme in Errigal College which is currently being delivered to our Transition Year students with the aim of opening it up to all students as an extracurricular activity. The programme involves a mix of classroom-based learning, hands-on experience, and mentorship from local entrepreneurs. It provides students with an opportunity to develop practical skills in areas such as personal development, product development, marketing, sales, financial management, and teamwork, all of which are transferable for their future careers.

To deliver this programme in our school, I work closely with my colleagues in our school Business department, the NFTE (Foróige) Coordinator, the Student Enterprise (Donegal LEO) Coordinator, the Letterkenny Chamber of Commerce and many local businesses and organisations. The involvement of these individuals and organisations is crucial as it exposes our students to real-life experiences and helps them develop these practical skills that can be applied in the business world and also their personal lives.

Four young people at an information stand.
Student Enterprise Programme entry.

Each September we commence the programme by encouraging our students to think outside of the box by generating ideas and discussing potentially viable products and services that solve a problem for consumers or meet the market’s needs and wants. Students then screen their ideas before developing their final concept and ultimately commencing production as early as October. We encourage students to aim to sell before Christmas in order to avail of a share of the large spend by consumers at this time of year. Upon returning to school after the Christmas break, students focus turns to the Enterprise Day and preparation for potential local and national competitions such as NFTE and Student Enterprise Programme.

The NFTE programme, organised by Foróige, provides participants with workbooks, activities, and guidance to support students during their entrepreneurial journey whilst also preparing them for the NFTE Regional Finals which takes place in Spring each year. The various categories of this programme also encourage students to find solutions to social issues, rather than simply seeking profit for once self. The Student Enterprise Programme, organised by the Local Enterprise Office, provides training and mentoring throughout the academic year to further support our students in turning their ideas into profitable businesses. This programme also rewards students whose products or services excel in areas such as technology, sustainability, and intellectual property.

Large group of people.
Enterprise Day students and employers.

One of the highlights of our programme is the extremely successful Enterprise Day which was held last year (2022-2023) on 22 February. This event was the culmination of months of hard work by our Transition Year students who developed their own mini-companies and showcased their products to over forty local professionals and the wider school community. The event was a fantastic opportunity for students to put their entrepreneurial skills to the test and receive feedback, advice and guidance from established entrepreneurs and professionals.

The success of our Enterprise Day was a testament to the hard work put in by our students, but also to the effectiveness of our enterprise education programme. The event helped to instil a sense of confidence in our students and provided them with the opportunity to learn from their mistakes and successes.

Young person holding a trophy.
Student Enterprise Programme Donegal Winner 2022-2023.

Our success was further highlighted when the top three mini-companies from our Enterprise Day picked up awards, including the overall winner, at the county final of the Student Enterprise Programme. The overall winner represented Donegal at the national final in Croke Park on Friday 5 May 2023, which is a credit to the hard work and dedication of all our students.

The benefits of enterprise education are far-reaching and extend beyond the classroom. Our programme has helped our students to develop a range of transferable skills that can be applied in a variety of settings. It has also instilled in them a sense of responsibility, independence, and resilience, which will be invaluable to them throughout their education and future endeavours.

These events and competitions have only just marked the beginning of what we hope to achieve through our enterprise education programme at Errigal College. I am excited about the potential of this programme and can’t wait to see what our students will achieve in the years to come.