The new Entrepreneur In Residence at St Mary’s College has issued a call out to other business leaders to consider doing the same following massive interest in the initiative.
St Mary’s College is only the second school in the UK or Ireland to get its own Entrepreneur in Residence, following an offer made by local business guru Mary McKenna to principal, Marie Lindsay.
Mary McKenna, who is also Entrepreneur in Residence at Oxford University, was officially installed in her new role in January.
The tech entrepreneur, angel investor and co-founder of Learning Pool, returned to St. Mary’s this week for the first round of workshops with pupils interested in finding out how they too can get involved in starting up their own businesses. A total of 114 pupils at St. Mary’s - more than one in 10 - have enrolled on the new Entrepreneurship programme.
The pupils aged 11 to 18, attended their first the workshops on Monday, which coincided with the start of Enterprise Week in the city and district.
Speaking to the ‘Journal’ Mary McKenna said she was delighted by the interest shown among pupils at St. Mary’s and elsewhere, and said there was a real desire among secondary level schools to have their own Entrepreneur in Residence.
“Since the launch there has been an awful lot of interest from other schools who are keeping an eye on what we are doing,” she said. “We have a request for a pupil exchange from some people in Sicily, so it’s way beyond Derry.
“When we looked at schools across the whole of the United Kingdom who have got an Entrepreneur in Residence, the only other school we could find was a private school in London. I’m meeting their Entrepreneur in Residence this week to find out what they were doing and see if we can get anything from that, and see if they can get anything from what we are doing here.
“It is something that universities do quite commonly with much older students, but it makes a lot of sense to start with them when they are 11 years old.”
Mary said there was a great opportunity now for other local entrepreneurs to take on the role of partnering with the various schools. The pupils at St. Mary’s are being told about the importance of making the right decisions which ensure that they have the skills set and confidence to take forward viable business ideas.
The strong emphasis on STEM subjects at St. Mary’s College meant there were great opportunities for the future, Mary said, with the north west already having had success in IT and other STEM start up businesses.
“Some of the students that were here this morning are 11 years old, it’s 10 years until they will finish university. The world is going to be a very different place and I think people don’t realise how quickly things like self-driving cars are going to be here, and all sorts of jobs will be disappearing, as we have seen already.
“My ambition for this is to get some people starting to think about something that is scalable. I think this will set the scene in their heads,” Mary concluded.