by business editor Trevor Sturgess
Wednesday sees the launch of Young Dragons, a new scheme to rival the long-established Young Enterprise but also designed to give young people hands-on experience of the world of work.
This alternative to Young Enterprise, a similar initiative launched more than 40 years ago in the Medway Towns, also encourages 15 - 19 year olds to set up enterprises in their school or college.
However, YE has recently come under fire from some local volunteers and schools about the way it operates. After YE told two prominent volunteers - Toni Clarke in Medway and Jerry Metcalf in north east Kent - to quit, members of their respective area boards resigned en bloc. They have all played a prominent role in setting up Young Dragons.
The launch involving schools from across the county takes place at the Dockside Outlet Centre, Chatham, with a Dragons' Den-style event featuring Jonathan Shaw, South East Regional Minister, as one of the Dragons.
Mr Shaw said: "I am delighted to support this exciting initiative, which will help these students build on their enterprise skills and give them valuable insight into the world of work.
"We need to do all we can to encourage future employers and employees to develop the skills which will help drive Medway, Kent and the whole South East region to success."
Ms Clarke, chief executive of Medway EBP, said: "We are really excited by this new and innovative project, which allows young people to develop skills and knowledge to start up and run their own businesses, or be better equipped to become an employee of the future.
"Working with employers will give them a perspective they cannot achieve in the classroom alone and an insight into what employers will expect of them."
Mr Metcalf added: "No matter which route these students choose upon leaving school, the skills and expertise they develop whilst participating in the Young Dragons Programme will be beneficial as employees, as entrepreneurs or in further education."
Schools involved include Chatham South, Fort Pitt Grammar, Greenacre, the Hundred of Hoo Silverbank Park, St John Fisher, Thomas Aveling, Chatham Boys Grammar, Bradfields, Rivermead, St Lawrence College, Canterbury High, Chaucer Technology College, Clarendon School, Spires Academy, Marlowe Academy, Invicta and St George's.