The following is an extract from a speech given by Chris at the awards ceremony for the company programme...

The final of the Junior Achievement company programme is always a bit of a highlight of my year.  Ever since I first got involved, first as a judge and then as a sponsor of the Company Award.  Invariably I have been impressed, challenged and entertained by the creativity and enthusiasm of the young people who take part, and this year has been no exception.

For me the program serves a number of important purposes.  First and foremost it is a rich learning experience.  In setting up their business the teams have to confront some harsh realities:  In business there is no predetermined formula for success, you have to trust your own judgement and accept the consequences or rewards of your actions.

No matter how brilliant you may be individually you have to be able to function as a team and teams need a variety of skills to succeed. Time takes no prisoners, if you don't get it done in time you may as well not have started. All of these factors to some extent bridge the gap between the success criteria that are central to the world of education and the requirements of the work place.

This is also a competition and the winners will go on to represent the Isle of Man in Europe.  Every year our winning team get to show some very influential people from both education and business across the continent that they have had the 'freedom to flourish'.  In Europe they are up against winning teams from some of the most dynamic and diverse educational and economic systems in the world.  Teams from countries like Germany and the UK who will already have competed at both regional and national levels to be selected from literally hundreds of competitors.

In the last couple of years we have seen the company program go from strength to strength, with an increasing emphasis on the development of real sustainable business ideas.  This year has been exceptional in this respect with more genuinely innovative product or service ideas than I can remember from any previous competition. It makes life far more interesting for the judges and business mentors and also most importantly, is far more inspiring and stretching for those who take part.

Precisely because this has been something of a vintage year for innovative and ambitious projects, the disparity between successfully meeting the criteria of the competition and the long term business potential of each idea has been particularly evident.  And in consequence whilst we do have a very worthy winner I think we also have an exceptional number of teams who have a potentially winning idea regardless of the rules of the competition.   Whatever they choose to do with their idea in the long run they have also had a really valuable learning experience.