Belfast Telegraph

Friday 31 October 2014

Pitching in with 21 big ideas

A FINE art student who wants to set up an artists' café in Belfast's Cathedral Quarter is one of 21 graduates to have pitched their business plans to a panel of experts at a special event in the city.

Brónach McGuinness, whose idea was inspired by a similar on holiday in Europe, says: "I really felt there is a need for students to get out of their studio spaces at the Art College. I want to create a hub for students, artists and people with an interest in art to meet and discuss what is happening on an international scale."

She and her fellow graduates have worked towards turning their dreams into reality by completing the Belfast Enterprise Academy programme before presenting their business plans to four panels of enterprise and education experts at the Holiday Inn in Ormeau Avenue.

Over the past three years the programme has helped create 18 businesses employing 31 people.

The programme is funded by Invest NI and Belfast City Council and supported by Queen's University, the University of Ulster and Belfast Metropolitan College. It is the first year that the course has received accreditation from the Open College Network NI (OCN NI) for a Level 3 Award in Business Development Skills.

Sri Lankan-born Dinuka Wijesinghe, who has just graduated with first class honours in software engineering at UUJ, has already started an IT systems support and teaching company.

"For the past two years I have been fixing computers around Belfast. I found that people over 40 or 50 wanted to learn how to use computers but didn't want to go on Government training courses. I do a personalised training plan for them," he said.

The programme is designed for degree students living in the Belfast area who want to become entrepreneurs. The celebration event was hosted by Belfast City Council with Councillor Pat Convery from the Development Committee presenting the certificates.

He said: "There were 140 applications for just 21 places on this course, which demonstrates how much students are interested in taking responsibility for their own futures. We have worked with OCNNI to develop a national qualification that recognises all of their hard work."

Brendan Clarke, Chief Executive of OCN NI, praised all involved on a "brilliant result" and added: "Committed, determined and innovative entrepreneurs will lead Northern Ireland towards a bright, sustainable and rewarding future."

Thirteen of the young entrepreneurs of the future who received certificates from Cllr Pat Convery

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