STUDENTS Matthew Laws and Julie Mills have been rewarded after putting in a special effort during placements at North-East companies.
Matthew, 20, from Felton in Northumberland, beat over 70 students from the region at the North-East finals of the Shell StepAwards 2007.
He scooped the top award at the regional final at Newcastle University for his work as a design engineer at Ashington-based close-circuit television lighting company Raytec.
And he will now go on to the northern finals in Manchester next week where he will compete, alongside North-East runner-up Julie Mills, 25, from Northumbria University, to reach the National Shell Step UK Final and be named ‘UK’s Most Enterprising Student’.
Last year over 80 businesses in the region took part in the One NorthEast-backed programme and 96% said it had a positive impact on the future of their business. More than two thirds of businesses involved enjoyed a boost to their profits of at least £1,500 during the placement period alone. Matthew, who is about to start his final year studying for a degree in mechanical engineering at Imperial College London, designed a pole-mounted bracket the company needed, one for a camera for one of its clients, and worked on a new lens design hoped to save the firm £3,000.
Matthew also did some market research into other CCTV camera companies and created a design to suit Raytec, drawing up a specification and producing drawings for a quotation. He said: “This placement has allowed me to learn a lot about working in a rapidly expanding SME. I have enjoyed working in an intense business environment and it is clear that everyone involved is an important asset to the company.
“The experience has been extremely valuable to me and has inspired me to consider having a business of my own in the future. I am developing an idea for a new product as part of my fourth year at Imperial College and feel that without having done this placement, I may not have considered taking it beyond the level of academic research.” Shaun Cutler, company director at Raytec, said: “Matthew’s involvement in the company over the last eight weeks has been a tremendous benefit. His skills, knowledge and enthusiasm have had a real impact on the business and he is a very worthy winner with a bright future ahead of him.”
Julie Mills is going to the final after she designed six new products and created three new handbag prototypes for Stupid Bags, a North Shields company which designs innovative bags and sells them through stores including Morrisons supermarkets.
Hosting the North-East Shell Step Awards 2007, Entrust CEO Dan Brophy said: “All the students took up the Shell Stepchallenge of doing a full-time job for just eight weeks and did it brilliantly.
“They have all made the most of the opportunity, developed their business skills and made a valuable contribution to their SME hosts.”