How does making paper ducks inspire students about business?

Addressing skills gaps is a hot topic nationally and The Skills Service, funded by the Greater Cambridge Greater Peterborough Enterprise Partnership (LEP) and delivered by Opportunity Peterborough, provides a brokerage service to help establish links between local schools and businesses to do just that. Our key aim is to provide careers inspiration for young people, while encouraging enterprise and developing vital employability skills, all through effective interactions with local business people.

So how does asking 11 – 14 year olds to make paper ducks help to achieve these aims?

The paper ducks challenge is a manufacturing simulation where students are randomly split into teams to form production companies that are in competition with their peers. Each team is provided with a series of job descriptions and asked to appoint a managing director, an accountant, a buyer, a sales executive and production workers. The roles are defined as:

  • Managing Director: leading the team
  • Accountant: managing finances and ensuring all staff are paid on a daily basis
  • Buyer: purchasing materials for making ducks from the pretend shop
  • Sales executive: negotiating the best prices for the finished products with external buyers
  • Production workers: making paper ducks to strict guidelines and responding to any ad hoc design changes placed throughout the process.

Duck Production2This process is repeated over five virtual working days, each lasting around 15 minutes, and various problems or challenges are introduced at different stages to reflect real business life and encourage team working skills. Fines and bonuses are also issued at the end of each day to penalise or reward certain behaviours that have been noticed by the team delivering the challenge, which includes a number of local business representatives.

Teams often start the challenge feeling sceptical about getting involved, but the competitive spirit quickly sets in and productivity levels noticeably increase over each virtual day. Individuals who do not usually work together often become united by the task, teaching them vital skills in preparation for working life.

The team that makes the most profit are crowned as winners and there is always obvious pride in achievements, not just by the winning team. Teachers are full of enthusiasm for the activity, feeding back that the students really enjoy the business challenge and learn some very valuable key skills. The paper duck challenge develops the following skills:

  • Team building
  • Problem-solving
  • Communication
  • Leadership
  • Enterprise and entrepreneurship
  • Presentation
  • Financial awareness
  • Awareness of local businesses

This is a fast-paced and energetic activity, which really engages the students and helps them to understand about different roles in business. We invite local business people to carry out the roles of sales, buying and banking to provide young people with real-life contact with the world of work. This invaluable support contributes to the huge success of the challenge and the enjoyment really is shared by all involved. It certainly makes for a fun morning out of the office! If you are interested in taking part in this type of activity, please contact us on 01733 863696, or on Twitter @UK_Skills.