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Forsyth Barr is proud to support Young Enterprise Scheme (YES)

For more than 40 years, the Young Enterprise Scheme (YES) has been teaching New Zealanders how to cultivate an entrepreneurial mindset. Since 1994, it has also run the New Zealand Business Hall of Fame event to acknowledge the careers of the country’s most impressive businesspeople and inspire some of the young participants in the scheme to follow in their footsteps. And Forsyth Barr’s sponsorship of the Business Hall of Fame and a foundation established by the late Sir Eion Edgar ensures that YES can continue to operate at both ends of the business spectrum.


Terry Shubkin’s job title at YES says a lot about her character: chief excitement officer. She’s been with the organisation for around 12 years and says its primary goal is to create a spark early on in students’ lives that will help them succeed, no matter what path they take, whether it’s in business, in the community or in life.

“Some students will go on to be entrepreneurs and hire lots of people and maybe change the world. For some, they’ll have a side hustle, whether it’s a passion or out of necessity. And for others it’s about making them work ready and world ready, so they can get a job and be better at that job. It’s giving them the 21st century skills employers look for now and teaching them about teamwork, resilience, problem solving, and everything a good employee possesses.”

85% of New Zealand secondary schools use YES programmes in some way, whether it’s games, financial literacy resources or short business challenges, and 200 secondary schools take part in the four-term Young Enterprise Scheme, where students develop a business idea and then bring it to life.


Young Enterprise National Awards

The national awards are held annually and Shubkin says low-decile schools regularly come out on top. Participants also closely match the national averages in terms of the school population, so it’s not just for wealthy schools or students.

In the last ten years, the number of students participating in YES has doubled from 2,500 to 5,000 and it has ambitious targets to double that again in the next five years.

“When I started we saw the teacher as our client, but now the young person is the client and the teacher is our partner. We give them a lot of support to make their life easier and help them teach business, even if they’ve never run a business before. Having an enthusiastic teacher is so important.”

One of the most positive outcomes of the scheme is that it helps grow students’ confidence and shows them that they’re capable of succeeding, Shubkin says. While she loves seeing YES alumni go on to do great things (she points to the likes of Stefan Lepionka of Charlie’s, Seeby Woodhouse of Orcon and Lisa King of My Food Bag and AF Drinks), she also loves seeing kids who were unable to look anyone in the eye at the start of the year completely transformed by the end of the year.

“Every year, we also have students who really hated school and were going to drop out, then they discover that they enjoy YES and start turning up to school every day.”


Evidence of success

Anecdotes are important, but solid evidence is even more powerful and a report conducted recently by ImpactLab showed that YES led to a number of major social benefits. Participants achieved more at school, developed specialised skills and improved their mental health. They also showed a reduction in risky behaviour, and had lower chances of addiction.

ImpactLab’s assessment was that “every dollar invested in Young Enterprise delivers $5.80 of measurable good to New Zealand”.

Shubkin jokes that YES runs on “the begging model”. About one third of funding comes from the Government, one third is from corporate sponsorships, and 20% comes from grants from gaming trusts like the Lion Foundation.


The New Zealand Business Hall of Fame

Forsyth Barr joined as a sponsor of the Business Hall of Fame Event in 2018.

“Back in the ‘90s we didn’t really have all the business awards we have now,” Shubkin says. “If we’re trying to convince young people that business is cool and fun and important, we figured we should be putting up role models and celebrating them. That’s why we launched it.”

She says they aim to match those at the end of their careers with those at the beginning and each inductee is escorted by a YES participant.

“They get to take part and sit with their laureate and we end the night with a student speaker. We call it the passing of the baton, from those who have, to those who will.”

The event, which attracted over 550 people last year, is not a huge money maker for the organisation, Shubkin says, but it does generate a surplus that is funnelled back into the work it does in schools.

“It’s getting harder and harder to make money at large events as costs keep going up, so without the sponsorship we wouldn’t be able to continue to make a contribution.”

Sir Eion Edgar KNZM was a long-term supporter of the Business Hall of Fame and played a big role in setting it up for the future.

After being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2021, he committed to establishing a foundation that would create a safety net for the programme. It would ensure that in more challenging years, the Foundation could be tapped into and the important contribution back into the Young Enterprise Scheme could also be made.

As was often the case, he put the cause to his extensive network and encouraged contributions. Sir Eion was a famously persuasive man, and, sure enough, the funds were raised and the foundation was established. As Shubkin observed in a speech at the Business Hall of Fame in 2022 that honoured Sir Eion’s life, it could be quite expensive being his friend.


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