Students rewarded for their enterprise

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Advising a Midlands industrial company not to go ahead with the purchase of a new computer system has helped Mark Smith to win the 1996 award for Most Enterprising Student in the UK, writes Roger Trapp.

Mark, who is reading computer science and software at Birmingham University, also advised Autosmart, an automotive cleaning materials manufacturer, on how to get better use out of its existing system and trained staff in its operation over the eight-week placement organised by the Shell Technology Enterprise Programme.

He was one of around 1,400 students from higher education establishments who spent two months of their summer vacation working in a range of small and medium-sized companies on projects that ranged from raising productivity in engineering plants to preparing feasibility studies for making better use of a company's facilities.

Liz Rhodes, director of the Step Programme, which is in its 10th year, said that projects undertaken under the Department of Trade and Industry- supported scheme can make "a significant difference to a company's economic performance and that they do have a great deal to offer". One of the criteria by which the participants are judged is the benefit to the host company.

The scheme is part of the oil company's community programme, which, as Chris Fay, chairman and chief executive of Shell UK, points out, is particularly aimed at young people and small business.

The other award winners at last week's ceremony in London, attended by Richard Page, the small firms minister, and Mr Fay, were Simon Jackson, of Bradford University, for best information technology project; Janice Vickers, of Birmingham University, for best manufacturing project; and Craig Flynn, of Paisley University, for best marketing project.

Angie Winnington, of Cardiff University, won the Step in the Environment award and Joshua Charlesworth, of the London School of Economics, was presented with the Step into the Community award.