A special West Cork Student Enterprise Conference for over 340 transition year pupils from schools throughout West Cork was hosted on Tuesday 13th October by the Local Enterprise Office, Cork West in Inchydoney Lodge and Spa.
The “Leaders on Our Level” conference was held for students undertaking the West Cork Schools Enterprise Programme which sees them set up and run their own mini enterprises.
Students were welcomed by Michael Hanley, CEO of the Local Enterprise Office Cork North and West and addressed by a diverse line-up of speakers including Bríd Ryan, Queen B Athletics, Kevin Buckley, Spearline Labs, Peter Nagle, Bitcove and Niall O' Callaghan, performance coach and fitness instructor. A mix of famous personalities including Astronaut, Chris Hadfield, An Taoiseach Enda Kenny, Polar explorer and motivational speaker Mark Pollock, broadcasters Henry McKean and Brendan O' Connor also sent special messages with the advice they would give their sixteen year old selves.
Addressing the pupils, Kevin Buckley who owns Spearline Labs and employs more than twenty people in Skibbereen emphasised the importance of having a vision, believing in it and having the strength to follow it through. He encouraged the students to think big, travel and appreciate where they are from saying "Faraway hills are green but home is where the heart is." Peter Nagle, a 23 year old entrepreneur from Rosscarbery who set up Bitcove with his brother James told the students that the youth of today are not the leaders of tomorrow - they are the leaders today.
Hadfield, a retired Canadian astronaut who shot to fame in 2013 as Commander of the International Space Station told the students to "have a long term goal. Enjoy the small things along the way but keep your goal in mind. It doesn’t matter whether you’re from a small town in Canada or West Cork, you can make your dream a reality.”
Henry McKean gave the teens some dating advice telling them to "tell that girl or guy that you like them – go for it. Don’t do law because your mum or dad told you to; travel; be polite; say please and thank you; follow your heart; and smile!” Brendan O' Connor urged students to not let people put them down saying “Ask the stupid questions because the answers to those questions can lead you to amazing places".
The Student Enterprise programme has been in existence since 2004 with schools from West Cork gaining national recognition for their projects in the past. Throughout the programme, students are exposed to all the realities and challenges faced by entrepreneurs in every stage of business development from market research and production to sales and marketing.
Each school will compete with their mini enterprises in the regional finals next February where one team will be chosen to represent West Cork and their school at the National Finals Croke Park.