A total of 55 learners from four high schools – Stellenzicht, Luckhoff, Makapula (three) and Cloetesville – attended the week-long YEP programme where they developed start-up ideas and business plans. The learners were divided into six groups and two mentors, second year entrepreneurship and innovation students in the Department of Business Management, were assigned to each of the groups. The week culminated in the groups presenting their business ideas to a panel of judges on Friday, 14 July.
The business ideas were judged based on its feasibility, sustainability and relevance to the community.
Makupula High School's business idea, Timber Counter Hans Blix, was adjudged the overall winner. The learners identified a need for more school desks in their classrooms and presented a plan to work with different role players to ensure that kids have more desks.
Luckhoff High School came in second with their knitting business idea, Knittear. They identified that their learners do not have school scarves to wear in winter to keep them warm. They devised a plan where they will not only get learners involved with the knitting process but also community members. It will also serve as a way of keeping young people off the streets.
Stellenzicht High School's New Generation Academy was placed third for their tutoring service idea to provide high school students access to educational after-school activities or support for their athletic aspirations. They aim to offer their service in partnership with past pupils who are studying at SU.
Fourth placed Cloetsville offered a solution to South Africa's loadshedding woes by coming up with an idea to create solar powered lights using recycled material such as glass and plastic holders.
Each school will receive R5 000 in seed funding, sponsored by the Embassy of Netherlands, to launch their business ideas. The learners will also receive further mentorship from the university over the next six months to help them bring their ideas to fruition.
Mr Adolph Neethling, lecturer in the Department of Business Management and YEP project leader, said the project offers learners hope that they can create their own futures.
“Teachers often tell us that learners don't feel the need to study as they do not see a future for themselves because of the high unemployment rate in the country. This project makes them see that there is an alternative way to create opportunities for themselves."
Sabrina Matthee, junior lecturer in the Department of Business Management and YEP project coordinator, reiterated Neethling's sentiments.
“We wanted to show them that instead of focusing on becoming an employee, you can become an employer who creates jobs and addresses critical problems in their communities." she said.
Cayla de Wet, who served as a mentor to the winning group from Makupula High School, said it was amazing to see how these learners transformed from introverts to passionate and involved individuals.
“When they first arrived, they were so shy and did not want to participate in anything but after we developed our business idea they started to open up and express their passions. I think they will take a lot of confidence from learning how to create a business from a problem and bringing their ideas across to people."
Aviwe Tom, Grade 10 learner at Luckhoff High School said of YEP week: “It wasn't easy but we pulled it off. I can't believe that we came in second. I also learnt valuable skills which I hope to apply to my studies at school. I learnt about the SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analyses which was something I really struggled with in my business studies and I am sure I will ace it when it comes to the exams.
“I also love presenting and the week boosted my confidence and presenting skills, and showed us the value of teamwork."
The YEP programme is a joint initiative of SU and the Hogeskool Utrecjht, in the Netherlands. This was the first year that SU presented the programme on its own.