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An innovative learning programme in Leeds is aiming to give young people the building blocks for bright and socially conscious business future.
The Leeds City Council-funded BUILD Your Future programme took place at by Nexus, the University of Leeds’s innovation hub last week and provided 11 people aged between 16 and 22 from across the Leeds city region, the chance to get an insight into everything from design solutions to business case development.
The week also aimed to deliver improved self-awareness and self-belief for the young people, who were drawn from a diverse range of backgrounds and selected for the scheme following an application process that saw them each create a video about a major global challenge they would like to tackle.
The programme was inspired by BUILD, a 12-week accelerator programme for early stage start-ups and people with fledgling business ideas. Held earlier this year, BUILD was one of the interventions developed by a Leeds city region senior leadership team that took part in the Regional Entrepreneurship Acceleration Programme (REAP), run by the Sloan School of Management at the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
The young people who attended the BUILD Your Future programme at Nexus came away confident they now have the tools to make a positive, sustainable difference to society – by tackling problems such as food waste and poverty – through their own ideas and entrepreneurial spirit.
One of the participants, 17-year-old Faris Ahmed, from Leeds, said: “It’s great to come to a programme where I can meet other young people with the same drive to change the world. Now I know how I can bring this into my future career options and have learnt some new skills like design thinking which will help me bring an entrepreneurial mindset to what I do next.”
Councillor Jonathan Pryor, Leeds City Council’s executive member for economy, culture and education, said: “As a council, we are fully committed to giving people of all ages and backgrounds the opportunities they need to make the most of their talent, skills and potential. BUILD Your Future is an excellent example of this approach, with the young people taking part getting invaluable guidance from experts who are at the very top of their respective games.
“Let’s hope the lessons the participants have learned during the programme help them carve out their own success stories in the years to come – it will be fascinating to keep an eye on the progress that they make from here.
“We’re proud to be supporting forward-looking initiatives like this one and to be playing our part as a council in creating the right environments for the kind of innovative, inclusive thinking that will benefit communities across the city.”
Speakers at last week’s sessions included a number of business founders who were on the BUILD start-up accelerator. Workshop content was produced and delivered by a team that included Cockerton + Co serial entrepreneurs Claire Cockerton and Perdie Alder, teacher-turned-entrepreneur Tony Mallett, design thinking expert Adam Sutcliffe and Leeds City Council head of programme innovation Richelle Schuster.
Sponsorship for BUILD Your Future came from infrastructure consulting firm AECOM and Nexus, with Dr Martin Stow, chairman and director of Nexus and MIT Team Leeds City Region champion, adding: “Nexus is really proud to support the BUILD Your Future programme. We have been inspired by the enthusiasm and innovation shown by the young people who took part in this programme and we hope they in turn have been inspired by the advice and support received, to develop those innovations and generate new ideas and business models.
“Growing our base of innovation-driven entrepreneurs through inclusive innovation is critical to the growth of our local economy and I’m delighted that the Nexus community can be an active and valuable part of that mission to inspire the next generation of innovators.”
Professor Nick Plant, deputy vice-chancellor: research and innovation at the University of Leeds, said: “This collaborative programme has enabled ambitious young people from diverse backgrounds to develop confidence, connections and entrepreneurial skills – tools they can use to grow their careers and help build a better world. We congratulate them on their success and look forward to seeing what they achieve in years to come.”
Special guests on the final day of BUILD Your Future included the Mayor of West Yorkshire, Tracy Brabin, who spoke to the young people about their experiences on the programme.
She also met with members of the Nexus community to learn more about how they are harnessing expertise at the University of Leeds to scale business innovation and growth.
Demonstrations of latest innovations and projects included contactless pedestrian crossing software, a tool for measuring unconscious biases and digital city simulation technology that can be applied to mobility and environmental challenges facing the West Yorkshire region.
Speaking after her visit, Brabin said: “Both Nexus and the BUILD programme are contributing to our region’s ambitions for innovation. Providing established businesses, start-ups and young people with the opportunity to develop an idea with academic support, access to specialist facilities and structured programmes to instil the confidence for innovators to pursue their ambitions.
“It was inspiring to hear from young people who are so passionate about tackling some of the most challenging issues of our time, from sustainability and the climate emergency to health and addressing poverty. The summer camp is supporting the next generation and nurturing those with a passion and desire to create a better future.
“We need to continue to create opportunities for future generations to make a positive change in the world and I am committed to supporting any way in which we can do that in the region.”
Following the pilot programme, ide@, the name for the Leeds City Region team which took part in REAP will use learning from the the event to inform future work that aims to strengthen the region’s innovation ecosystem and its pipeline of diverse business founders.
Nexus is one of the sponsors of the upcoming Disruptors event – one day virtual conference that will showcase the businesses across the North already leading the charge and the next generation of entrepreneurs and companies that are aiming to transform the regional, national and global economy.
It will encourage and inspire business leaders and managers who know they need to become a disruptor. It will also inform you on what is being done by our politicians and policymakers to attract technology companies and investments, boost skills and create the conditions for innovative businesses to flourish.
The event will feature experienced business leaders and entrepreneurs alongside some of the most exciting young technology companies from across the North.