Budding entrepreneurs from all six FE Colleges in Northern Ireland have been pitching their business ideas to judging panels at the sector final of the Project Based Learning Competition (PBL). The 2023 Competition, hosted by Northern Regional College’s Entrepreneurship Hub, was open to all full-time and part-time students. Each college hosted their own preliminary qualifying round with the top entry in each of the four categories – Entrepreneurial, Sustainability, Innovation and Social Impact – going through to the final at Northern Regional College’s Newtownabbey campus which was held recently.
Joanne McCourt, event organiser and Principal Lecturer for Entrepreneurship and Innovation in Teaching and Learning at Northern Regional College, said the competition was to promote the development of critical and creative thinking and problem-solving skills among students.
She explained that Project Based Learning had become increasingly popular as a teaching method for students of all ages:
“It focuses on preparing young people for employment by encouraging them to get involved in real-world projects and assist with developing their entrepreneurship skills. Project Based Learning can be very beneficial for students, and I would like to see it integrated into all aspects of the curriculum.”
Joanne said she had been greatly encouraged by number of interesting and creative projects submitted for the competition.
For the first stage of the competition and again at the sectoral final, students had to make a written submission outlining how their project meets the criteria.
They had ten minutes to pitch their idea to the judges, clearly identifying how their project met the eligibility criteria for the category: Entrepreneurial – creating value from an idea; Sustainability – positive impact on the environment; Innovation – A new/improved product or service or other innovation; Social Impact – positive impact on social economy/society. Marks are awarded for both the project, as well as communication and presentation skills
Category winners were South Eastern Regional College (overall winners) with South West College winning the Social Impact category. North West Regional College picked up the Entrepreneurial award and the second South Eastern Regional College team were winners of the Innovation & Sustainability category.