Creating jobs & business opportunities: Helping students build their entrepreneurial skills and knowledge

Enterprise Stephen Bond

Stephen Bond of Panda’s Kitchen successfully completed an Enterprise Placement Year and now runs his independent artisan liqueurs company specialising in quirky and unique flavours.

The University of Huddersfield’s Enterprise Team provides a comprehensive free service with advice and training on all aspects of starting up an enterprise, from freelancing to forming a business. Based in The Duke of York Young Entrepreneur Centre, situated in the 3M Buckley Innovation Centre, the team provides hot-desking facilities for over 100 enterprises created by current students and recent graduates of up to five years.

Work placements are an essential part of many of the university’s courses and the Enterprise Team provides an innovative alternative to the traditional internship or placement with an employer. Students can undertake an Enterprise Placement Year (EPY), spending a year taking part in a structured programme, setting up and running their own business venture or working in a freelance capacity.

Enterprise team photo low res

The University of Huddersfield’s Enterprise Team

Not only does this programme provide students with the opportunity to gain skills and knowledge to be successfully self-employed, it can also equip them with invaluable and transferable employability skills and confidence, should they decide to take a more traditional career route on completion of their degree.

The Enterprise Placement Year started life in 2007.  Since then it has been enhanced with a structured programme of support put in place in collaboration with academic Schools.  Students are able to run their own businesses in a supportive managed-risk environment whilst gaining 120 credits towards their academic programme of study.

The EPY is made up of induction and review sessions, regular group mentoring sessions, 1-2-1 business advice, enterprise skills workshops, and ad hoc opportunities such as a master class with an entrepreneur or a field trip to an entrepreneurial company.

To date over 100 students have completed the EPY, including Stephen Bond of Panda’s Kitchen (pictured).  Stephen successfully completed an Enterprise Placement Year and now runs his independent artisan liqueurs company specialising in quirky and unique flavours.  He has built this award-winning business around creating and selling drinks that incorporate unusual combinations of ingredients such as honey, spices and chillies. Stephen now has his own retail outlet in Huddersfield’s Byram Arcade where he sells his liqueurs designed to “thrill you, chill you and fulfil you!” He continues to receive ongoing business advice on the Enterprise Support Programme and recently won first prize in the Test Town Competition 2016 final in Glasgow.

The EPY is a highly immersive and challenging learning opportunity with a well-structured support system. It is designed for students to fully explore and drive business start-up, making and taking responsibility for their own business decisions whilst gaining academic credit for their learning development. There is no bursary attached to the placement year, students need to generate their own income.  They can currently however apply for a small grant (up to £500) to help prove their business idea is viable and take it to the next stage.

Businesses do not need to be successful in terms of income generation or intention to sustain to pass the academic module. A student deciding that business start-up is not for them is an equally successful outcome of the year if learning has taken place with reasoned reflection.

All current University of Huddersfield students and graduates of up to five years are eligible for the Enterprise Support package.  The scheme offers one-to-one business advice and coaching to help get a specific business idea off the ground.  Participants can apply for a hot desk licence within The Duke of York Young Entrepreneur Centre providing them with free access to a PC or Mac, printing facilities, phone, networking space and meeting rooms.  They are also encouraged to attend the weekly enterprise skills and networking sessions as part of the Enterprise Team event series. Participants are also eligible to apply for Proof of Concept and Start-Up grant funding (when available).

Following on from the success of the EPY, the team are setting up a ‘Games Industry Enterprise Year.’ Students have the opportunity to learn about starting up in the games industry, supported by games company mentors in addition to having access to business advice provided by the Enterprise Team.

Further reading