Jobless youngsters brave the Dragons’ Den

Coventry Boot Camp youngsters at the Dragons’ Den



Thursday, 04 December 2014 

Unemployed youngsters in Coventry were given a baptism of fire as they entered the Dragons’ Den, but it was all in the name of helping them back into employment or education.

The session was part of an intensive two-week boot camp organised by Whitefriars Housing, Orbit Heart of England and Midlands Heart to help young tenants improve their employment and training prospects.

The boot camp is the tenth of its type to be hosted by the social-landlords. So far, more than 100 young NEETS* have been helped to find work or get back into education through the programme, which gives the participants a chance to gain valuable work experience and improve their skills.

As part of the boot camp, the group was given the opportunity to present a community-focused business idea at a Dragons’ Den-style pitch. Sitting on the panel were representatives from each housing association as well as the Coventry fire and police service, Henley College and contractor Willmott Dixon.

After a close contest, the winning team’s idea to set up a homemade soup business helping to ensure that people get their five-a-day won the esteem of the judges. 

Kevin Rodgers, group finance director & deputy chief executive at WM Housing Group, of which Whitefriars is a member, sat on the panel. He said: “The other Dragons and I were extremely impressed with the ideas that the groups came up with. They showed real understanding of the issues affecting their communities and their teamwork led to some really innovative outcomes. 

“I think this programme is a fantastic initiative and a testament to what can be achieved through Coventry partners working together to support young people in our community.”

A number of local partners have joined the housing associations to support boot camp. These include; West Midlands Police and Fire Service, Henley College, Job Centre Plus, Coventry City Council jobs and economy team, Youth Offending Service, Valley House and Groundwork. 

Joanna Selby, boot camp project manager, explained that the aim of the Dragons’ Den.

She said: “When applying for jobs, it’s vital that you can communicate and come across well. It’s also likely that you’ll be asked to do some form of presentation. We hope that by participating in this exercise, this won’t seem such a daunting task and that the young people we’ve worked with will be better equipped in an interview scenario.“Boot camp is about ensuring each individual is better placed to live healthier, happier lives. They’re not only taught new skills, but also educated about the challenges they face in everyday life. 

“I’m really proud of what each young person achieves at boot camp. Seeing how they progress over the two weeks and the tangible, positive change to their lives is fantastic.”

As well as pitching to the Dragons, the boot camp participants have helped out at the local foodbank, spent time engaging with the elderly and worked on improving their employment prospects through a CV workshop.

At the end of the two weeks, the participant’s achievements will be celebrated at an awards ceremony, where they will each receive either a work placement or support towards further education from one of the many local businesses who support the project.

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