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Future workers meet business challenges

Imagine classrooms full of motivated learners who are able to manage themselves, solve problems, make decisions, take risks and be self-reliant. Too good to be true? Well, that's enterprise, according to a flier that arrived in school last year.

From Pupil to Professional was a one-day course offered by the Learning Game, and to Angus Smith, Oban High's principal teacher of enterprise, it seemed to fit the bill for the fourth years.

Mr Smith had been working to spread enterprise education in the school and, after introducing topics in personal and social education, was going through the audit with other departments.

The timing was right for S4; they were in the midst of option choices and were looking towards the future. The school had used the company frequently before and had never been disappointed. It turned out that Oban High was the first school to do this workshop.

The programme covered research into future careers and job prospects, the new technologies and, importantly, the uncertainty and speed of change.

What skills and attributes would be required of our future workforce to meet the challenges?

The presenter described creative problem solving, managing change, communicating well, being team players, having the ability to turn an obstacle into an opportunity and being positive.

In "Gimme, Gimme, Gimme", the pupils learned a little of the cost realities of lifestyles and some useful budgeting tips.

Then followed the various routes they could follow, one option being the entrepreneurial route and the qualities of the entrepreneur were examined.

The pupils engaged in a realistic business simulation which involved risk-taking, teamwork, negotiation and communication.

The presenter, Fiona Ballie, was one of the best the school had come across. She set a good pace, was a performer (in a previous life she had won a best actress award in South Africa) and delivered the content with humour and conviction. The day was highly interactive and she used examples which effectively hooked in the pupils.

Mr Smith's litmus test of the event happened when the school attendance officer arrived with a couple of pupils who had decided to use their entrepreneurial talents to try to skive for the day. In they shuffled and slouched in their chairs, their body language saying this was the last place they wanted to be. Ms Ballie had them interested within minutes and, at one of the breaks, Mr Smith smiled quietly to himself as he watched the two of them engage in animated conversation with her.

The evaluations said it all. Nearly everyone found the course enjoyable and relevant and would recommend it. Events like this can be a powerful way of learning.

Linda Kirkwood is headteacher of Oban


What the fourth years enjoyed most:

* deciding the companies to invest in or not

* building the business

* the job and salary activity

* creating your own department

* vegetable charades (S4 boys pretending to be carrots!)

* learning about life

* the presenter: she was very funny

* everything

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