Sheena Matheson of Business Dynamics assembled an interesting and varied group of session leaders for Gairloch High School’s annual S6 Business Awareness Programme on February 13th and 14th at the Mrytle Bank Hotel.
The first session was an introduction to business by Dave Charnley, which got pupils talking, thinking and presenting within the first 30 minutes. This was an excellent and thought provoking icebreaker task – creating a promotional ad for a toilet seat! At the end of the session Dave had a Question & Answer session with the pupils to further their knowledge of the price, placing, promotion & product model commonly known as the 4 P’s.
After a break engineer Jim Johnston of SGL Carbon ran a session on Research & Development. SGL Carbon make carbon products for a huge variety of uses. These uses range from brake pads for Formula 1 cars, aircraft undercarriage wheels and carbon inserts for beds and mattresses to meet fire safety standards. Jim went through different aspects of the design process and the methods used to maintain quality control before getting the pupils in their groups to design a paper tower that had to support a small water tank half a meter above the table surface. The tower was constructed from paper, Sellotape and paper clips all of which had to be ‘bought’. The completed towers were judged on their cost; team group dynamics, ingenuity and meeting the requirement of the original specification.
In the afternoon Simone Nelson talked about her experiences as a businesswoman and how finding a business has moved from word of mouth and the telephone to the internet. She then went on to get pupils involved in the development of some of the more technical aspects of designing a website such as e-commerce, domain names, shopping carts and payment processing. Simone then set the groups a very topical task which was to design the search engine optimisation for a website selling wild fruit cordial which makes couples drinking it together in love!
Day two again started with a stunning morning, flat calm across the loch. Last night it was cold enough to freeze the shallow water next to the hotel. The first session of the day came from Steve McDonald of British Telecom. Steve told the pupils about the function of a Human Resources department, including how to prepare for an interview as well as what to look for when interviewing an applicant. Steve then set them the task of having to decide on which applicants would be interviewed for a job.
Paula Kirby of Fusion, Inverness led a session on innovation. This started with a very entertaining set of slides showing past and present innovative products. These products included: vacuum cleaners; mobile phones, digital cameras and motor cars. Paula opened up discussion about the ancestry of products, why new products evolve and the effects that they can have on the business world. Some of the activities that Paula asked the pupils to do were design a new vacuum cleaner, think of as many uses as possible for a paper clip and create a system to preserve The Parthenon.
Sheena Matheson brought together everything from the two days by setting the pupils a business problem; the pupils formed two companies – ‘Gairloch Bike Tours’ & ‘Brake-Bike Mountain’ to operate cycle tours in the Gairloch area. This business plan had to include management, enterprise funding, e-commerce, finance, human resources and marketing.
Gairloch High School would like to thank all of the session leaders and Sheena Matheson of Business Dynamics for providing this excellent opportunity for our sixth years. Thanks also to the staff of the Mrytle Bank Hotel who provided a comfortable and convenient venue for this event.
Jim Sutherland, Determined to Succeed co-ordinator, Gairloch High School.