Pupils sampled the world of enterprise at an event that brought the education and business communities together to inspire a culture of entrepreneurship for young people.
Michelin Development, supported by Young Enterprise NI and Ballymena Business Centre, hosted the Junior Apprentice competition, an action-packed day dedicated to giving youngsters a flavour of the business world in a real life setting.
Eight schools from the Ballymena Learning Together Zone took part in the event held at The Braid Town Hall.
Local business leaders also gave their time to coach the young people and offer support.
Four pupils from each school were given expert tips before setting out in the town with a budget of £150.
Their aim, through negotiation on price, was to purchase as many items as possible from a pre-defined list of goods that would be of benefit to their school.
The teams purchased their chosen items from local traders in Ballymena town centre, using their powers of negotiation to get the best deal possible. All goods purchased were retained by their school.
Afterwards, the teams returned to The Braid to report on their results and present their purchasing strategy, negotiating tips and outcomes to the audience and a panel of judges.
The best negotiators award, for achieving the greatest discount on the items purchased, went to St. Patrick’s College with Slemish College in runner up position and St. Louis Grammar a very close third.
The best presentation award went to Cullybackey College, with Dunclug College in runner up position.
Mid and East Antrim Borough Council Mayor, Maureen Morrow, spoke to the pupils at the start of the event and presented the awards at the end of the day.
Cllr Morrow said: “I was thrilled to see representatives from so many schools taking part.
“The young people practised team-working, strategising, negotiating and presenting, all skills which are essential for running a business and entering the workplace.
“I’d like to commend the pupils who took part, their teachers and the volunteers from banks and other businesses who gave their time and expertise to ensure the event was a success.”
This was the first time Michelin Development has held the Junior Apprentice contest.
Noel Mulholland, Michelin Development’s business manager in Ballymena, said: “The pupils worked hard and were absolutely brilliant to work with.
“Their confidence grew throughout the day and I think it was an invaluable exercise for them all.
“Longer term sustainability of economic growth will depend on future generations taking up the challenge of running a business in a fast-changing modern world and, with everyone’s support, The Junior Apprentice provided a great opportunity to encourage young people to take up that challenge.”