AT the end of two tasks - and pleas for help to just about everyone from yummy mummies to billionaire Donald Trump - there is nothing to separate the contestants in the Larne Apprentice competition.
Having been split in to two teams of three, the first mission for the aspiring entrepreneurs hoping to enhance their career prospects was to build up online followings on both twitter and facebook.
Kaizen (from the Japanese for improvement) - comprising team manager Chris Taylor, Declan Magill and David McMaw - won the twitter challenge, but The Money Team (motto: dedication and hard work) - Zarak Bartley, Philip Jamison and Carolyn McFall - scored most facebook likes, which meant the outcome was decided on facebook content.
With posts that hinted they had invested a few all-nighters, as in “Money don’t sleep”, the Money Team drew first blood.
The trio, who had appealed in vain with tweets to both Piers Morgan, winner of the Celebrity Apprentice title, and Donald Trump (America’s Sir Alan Sugar) for tips on how to get ahead, enjoyed a “celebratory Subway and fist pump”.
Kaizen were down but not defeated, as they told their followers on twitter: “The competition has really heated up. Can feel the pressure building.”
And so to the second task, which involved upcycling old furniture so it was for re-sale. After various tables, cabinets and lockers had been painted and decorated the good folk at Larne’s Re:Store shop displayed the finished articles to customers. Kaizen sold most items, winning the challenge and leaving The Money Team tweeting ruefully: “Got taken to school by Kaizen.”
The young Apprentices are head-to-head and taking the third challenge very seriously indeed. They have to design and develop a non-mechanical children’s toy, suitable for the demanding and tantrum-prone four-seven years’ age group.
They will have to make a presentation to the judges on their concepts, marketing strategies, costs and so on.
Both teams have already launched appeals for assistance: Kaizen urged facebook followers to “become a focus group”, while The Money Team went right to the target customers, urging: “Any ideas from yummy mummies out there?”
Organised by LEDCOM and Larne Borough Council, supported by the Larne Times, the competition is part of the Larne Youth Opportunities Programme and designed to help young people between the ages of 18-25 to gain new work skills within a business environment.
The competition will conclude in a final featuring “Jedi” Jim Eastwood, the Ulsterman who knows what it’s like to live in dread of Sir Alan Sugar pointing at you and declaring: “You’re fired!”
The Larne Times will report regular updates on the competition, which will aim to assess the participants using a balanced scorecard approach to develop business acumen, attitude, social understanding and leadership.
The competition is being supported by local businesses giving voluntary time and experience to help the candidates throughout the eight weeks of the initiative, as well as enhancing their future career prospects.
The winner will receive an iPad, with the runner-up receiving a tablet computer, with other prizes for all who complete the contest.
The Larne Apprentices will receive up to 10 hours’ one-to-one mentoring from local business representatives to assist with career development and will have contact with employers with the potential to advance employment opportunities.
You can also catch up with the teams at: