A competition for enterprising young minds is challenging pupils from County Durham secondary schools to turn their problem-solving skills into a profitable business.

Future Business Magnates, now in its 17th year, will be online for the first time and will see teams of year 8 students work together with local businesses to create, develop and present their business ideas.

The programme, run by Business Durham, the business support service of Durham County Council, aims to inspire future entrepreneurs by allowing pupils to experience the fun of starting their own business while developing key employability skills, such as teamwork, problem solving, communication and presentation skills.

Future Business Magnates has been adapted and is running online for the first time as the programme was unable to run for the past two years due to the pandemic.

It was launched last month, with broadcaster and presenter Charlie Charlton acting as host to welcome pupils and present each virtual workshop.

Following this year’s theme of “Solving Problems in an Ever-Changing World”, participants will identify a problem that affects us today – which could relate to the environment, natural disasters or consequences of worldwide emergency – and come up with an idea that will help solve it and turn into an innovative new business.

Students will take part in six individual challenges, supported by dedicated business partners from successful County Durham businesses such as Waterstons, Hydram and PDM North East.

Cllr Elizabeth Scott, Cabinet Member for Economy and Partnerships at Durham County Council, said: “Future Business Magnates provides a great opportunity for students to explore possible career pathways as well as nurture and inspire their entrepreneurial skills, and I’m delighted that we’ve been able to adapt the competition to run in this new online format.

“These times have tested the resilience of many companies across the county, and so the ability to encounter a problem and use your team’s creativity, ingenuity and inventiveness to find new solutions is an essential skill to thrive in today’s ever-changing world of business, and one we feel is vital to pass onto the next generation.”

Michael Stirrup, Chief Executive Officer at Waterstons, one of the business partners said: “The FBM competition allows Waterstons to give something back to the local community but also helps us show the Durham children that there are some fantastic careers that can be built right here in Durham”

Varsha Nighoskar, Acting Head of Year 8 at St John’s Catholic School & Sixth Form College in Bishop Auckland said: “St John’s Catholic School & Sixth Form College has taken part in the Future Business Magnate programme for several years, and it has been an amazing experience for students in developing their entrepreneurial, organisational and social skills. FBM projects encourage students to think, plan, and deliver their ideas independently as well as helping them to work as a part of a team. In our experience, the competitive element of the FBM programme encourages and inspires students to be innovative with their ideas and designs, and their participation in the programme increases their confidence, shines a light on their talents and enhances their leadership skills.”

For more information on how your school or business can get involved, please visit https://www.durhamstartups.co.uk/future-business-magnates/