Tycoons create a stir at power lunch

8th October 2010 at 01:00
A networking event set up by an Aberdeen primary is benefiting pupils and businesses

At first glance it looks like any other business lunch - people in suits sitting at a sea of tables covered in white linen.

But look closer and there are little legs with socks and shoes and feet that don't quite touch the floor under the tables.

This Business Networking Lunch has been organised for schools and businesses across Aberdeen by the pupil council from Kirkhill Primary. It's called Link and Learn 2010 - Schools and Businesses Working Together.

This school has been running events like this for eight years - ever since pupils visited a Chamber of Commerce business breakfast and decided to stage their own.

But there are differences. This is way more fun than the events run by the business community and you don't have to get up when the moon is still out, as the children have now opted for a lunchtime meeting.

There are 14 schools networking here with an impressive adult turnout: lawyers, accountants, oil executives, managing directors and even a Grampian Police Chief Constable have taken time out to be at the Beach Ballroom.

"The feedback from the schools that have come has been great and they tell us that they have met business partners here at the networking lunch and formed partnerships with them," says Lorraine Napier, headteacher at Kirkhill Primary.

Her school has several partnerships to give children an early insight into the workplace and extraordinary opportunities. "One of our most effective partnerships has been with Petrotechnics (a consultant to energy companies), and we met them at one of our business lunches," says Mrs Napier.

Connections like this provide endless opportunities - children visit Petrotechnics' workplace, take part in work activities and staff come in and help children learn new skills.

The school also has a partnership with solicitors and estate agency Raeburn Christie Clark amp; Wallace. They show children how the property side of their business works and have staged a mock trial to show them how courts work.

Kirkhill's P6 and P7 pupils have organised this lunch: they manage the budget, the catering, the guest list, and the programme. They make the phone calls, send the emails, negotiate the prices and make the speeches. And if you find you're missing a spoon for your soup, an eagle-eyed 11- year-old will sort that out sharpish.

The children look comfortable in this environment. They address this large audience with no sign of nerves, they cope with napkins and water glasses and passing round sandwiches as they chat with adults over lunch.

"They are learning life skills and that is so important. The partnerships also give them an insight into work and into jobs that otherwise they wouldn't know about," Mrs Napier says.

The children's choice of guest speakers reflects their personal tastes: there is a chocolate-making demonstration from a business called Cocoa Ooze, run by teenager Jamie Hutcheon, 19, a former Mackie Academy pupil who started this business two years ago. There are also free samples and the grown-ups are struggling to restrain themselves.

Then there is skincare advice and a facial peel demonstration by another young business owner - Lucy Tuck, 20, who was at Aboyne Academy and launched her beauty business, Definition, a year ago. The children like this demonstration - but their teachers really like it. During snatched consultations, one or two are asking Lucy how to get their complexion blemish-free and glowing just like hers.

Annette Bruton, Aberdeen council's director of education, is among the guests. "I think this is a really fantastic opportunity for the young people to get together with their business partners," she says.

"But, also, one of the things I really notice today is that the business partners and schools are sharing ideas with each other."

After a lunch of soup and sandwiches, the main event is a hat-making competition, where the business executives team up with children for a challenge. The objective is to illustrate the qualities shared by successful businesses and schools. A psychologist would have a field day here, watching how the bosses of multi-million-pound companies behave with glue and scissors, coloured pens and cardboard in a team of 11-year- olds.

"The children enjoy working with adults and sharing ideas, and I think the adults become children again themselves," says Mrs Napier.

She says children's uninhibited enthusiasm is infectious.


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