Giving young Londoners a head start in building their business networks is just one of the aims of InspiresMe, an internship initiative spearheaded by Workspace, the GLA and Business in the Community. We caught up with some of the students who’ve taken part in the scheme – and a few new faces – at a special Ambassadors’ Day at City Hall in July.

“Planning is really important”

“Each voice deserves to be listened to”

“A good leader makes for a good team”

“Communicating makes a task easier”…

These were just some of the takeaways from the InspiresMe Ambassadors’ Day, a business masterclass packed with enterprise challenges that offered sixth-form students from across London the chance to network, develop their skills and discover more about entrepreneurship. The day was aimed primarily at those students who didn’t manage to secure an internship during InspiresMe Week in February; 19 schools across the capital now take part in the programme (six years ago, when the scheme began, the number was three), and demand for work placements far outstrips supply.

GLA's Amanda Coyle and Daisy Greenaway

 

InspiresMe was born out of the Mayor of London’s determination to change educational outcomes for young Londoners who “didn’t feel part of the city”, and Workspace’s desire to create a sustainable programme that would support the communities in which it operated. As Workspace’s Head of Corporate Development James Friedenthal explains: “When we talked to youngsters, so many of them were saying, ‘I want to be an entrepreneur, I want to be my own boss’. And so we thought, is there a way to link employment, education and entrepreneurship? And these were the three founding pillars of what has now become InspiresMe.”

 It’s a unique chance for the youngsters to get involved in some of Workspace’s truly niche businesses as well as larger firms.

 

Students are invited into startups and New and Growing Companies for four days in February, so they can see first-hand how a small business is run. It’s a unique chance for the youngsters to get involved in some of Workspace’s truly unique customers as well as larger firms; students have filmed podcasts at public affairs agencies, designed jewellery with artisans, created garden plans at architectural practices and met pop stars at digital agencies.

Hard at work

 

The Ambassadors’ Day event was a chance for those students who missed out in February to develop their entrepreneurial skills and become “ambassadors for enterprise” back at their schools. Supported and mentored by business professionals, including Ben Prouty of LOVESPACE (based at Gray’s Inn Road) and Workspace’s Head of Corporate Communications, Clare Dundas, they tackled an intensive series of tasks, ranging from strategically planning the making of a cooked breakfast (tougher than you’d think) to a SWOT analysis of a high-street restaurant chain. Not even the coffee breaks offered a let-up; everyone was tasked with talking to at least three new people. That these young people are bursting with fresh ideas and new ways of looking at problems was clear from the way they attacked each challenge, and that’s something that can be of huge benefit to the Workspace-based New and Growing Companies and startups that take part in the initiative.

What our businesses get back is the engagement with the enthusiasm and energy that these students have.

James Friedenthal, Head of Corporate Development

 

James Friedenthal stresses that InspiresMe is a two-way street. “What businesses get back is the engagement with the enthusiasm and energy that these students have.” A similar message came from keynote speaker Yasmin Greenaway – who at just 25 has an incredible roster of business achievements to her name – who told the students: “[Young people] are the drivers of change, we are the catalysts and we are the pioneers… The best solutions are going to come from us.”

Clare Dundas from Workspace

In the afternoon, the students were joined by their schoolmates who’d taken part in the February event, and divided into school-based teams to work on strategy and planning tasks. Among the new arrivals was a team from St Marylebone School, who’d won the inaugural InspiresMe Week Social Enterprise competition with their plan for tackling homelessness; they were also invited back a few days later for “Winners’ Week”, an in-depth week of mentoring, during which they met with the GLA housing team to discuss their ideas. 

This year, four of the students impressed their mentor companies so much that they were asked to come back for further work placements.

 

The St Marylebone students gained “a lot” from taking part in InspiresMe Week, according to Vanessa Kenneth, the school’s sixth-form careers tutor. “It really gave them a chance to find their voice away from the classroom, to challenge themselves in new and practical ways. Those students who are considered ‘quiet’ at school found the confidence to make their opinions known, and show employers it’s not necessarily a string of A* grades that equip us for the workplace, it’s experiences, the chance to meet and talk to a wide range of people and explore new ideas.”

Students from St Marylebone School with Workspace and GLA representativesQuentin Crowe (The Marketers' Forum)  and Gunther Jancke (GLA) in front

 

The InspiresMe programme opens up a world of possibilities and leads to very real change for these students, giving them, in James’s words, “such a huge advantage when it comes to applying for their first job”. This year, four of the students impressed their mentor companies so much that they were asked to come back for further work placements.

“We have a strong sense of responsibility for what we’re doing in London,” says Workspace’s Clare Dundas, “not only because these young people might be the businesses of the future, but because our customers want to get involved in their communities, not just be working there; they really want to help. We’ve got so many business owners and entrepreneurs who were these young people not so long ago.”

Find out more about Inspiresme Week and how your business can get involved.