Bringing business into local schools

YOUNG Apprentice winner Ashleigh Porter-Exley has taken the next step in her career and now has aspirations to bring business challenges into Rotherham schools.

The high-flying 18-year-old has turned the tables since her time across the desk from Lord Alan Sugar on the BBC One television series and is now the one setting the challenges in her role as national sales manager for Youth Enterprise CLC.

Just days before her 19th birthday and a month into her new role for the firm, which is fronted by Dragon’s Den star Theo Paphitis, the former Wath Comprehensive student spoke of her desire to inspire Rotherham youngsters into a career in business.

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She said: “What I’m doing now does see me taking an Alan Sugar-like role, I suppose.

“We challenge pupils to design a flip-flop or a pencil case that could form a business plan and then ask them to pitch their ideas.

“A winning team from each school will go to the finals in Manchester in July.

“I’m travelling around the country, going in to schools and helping to set and judge the challenges.

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“I’m really enjoying it, it’s something I’m passionate about, and I really want to bring the Youth Enterprise Challenge to Rotherham schools if I can.”

Ashleigh won the BBC’s Young Apprentice series 12 months ago, with Lord Sugar praising her “sheer and utter graft” before awarding her a £25,000 prize fund.

The self-confessed workaholic started work at Swinton’s Threadmill bridal shop at the age of just 13 and has held a series of jobs since.

More recently, she has been inspiring young people with her involvement in a fellow Apprentice star’s project, the Claire Young School Speakers, as well as Barnsley’s IKIC Challenge and Pitchforit schemes.

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It was while working as a school speaker that she attracted the attention of Staffordshire-based Youth Enterprise CLC.

Ashleigh said: “They approached me and asked if I would like to work with them and I said ‘Yes’ straight away.

“I love speaking to the kids at schools and the feedback I’ve had from teachers has been really good. To be able to do that as part of my job is great.”

Ashleigh left home for the first time while filming Young Apprentice but her new job sees her travelling across the country on a daily basis.

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And she has taken the step of moving out of her family’s home in Swinton to be near to her new, Manchester-based, employers.

She said: “It has been a bit daunting leaving home because I’m quite a family person, but I still go home at weekends.

“I visited the bridal shop the other day and ended up working there again. Wherever I go, I always end up working...”