Sunderland students show winning app-titude

Teams of students on Wearside have won the opportunity to gain work experience at True Potential and to see their ideas rolled out to millions of customers across the UK.

The students, based at the Harrison Centre for Social Mobility at the Beacon of Light in Sunderland, took part in this year’s Harrison Prize – the annual Dragons’ Den style event run by UK entrepreneur David Harrison, Chairman of True Potential.

David was joined by fellow judges Lord John Bird, founder of the Big Issue magazine; Daniel Harrison, Chief Executive of True Potential; and Dianne Pattison, Head of Delivery at True Potential.

Five teams of students at the Beacon of Light presented their ideas for a new money-saving app, designed to help the public understand in greater detail their spending habits and to find potential savings.

The judges were impressed by the level of team working, creativity and effort that went into the presentations and awarded the Money Smart team the top prize with each team member winning a new iPad.

Their idea for an app used gaming and money incentives to encourage users to save. Some of the ideas will be brought to life by the tech experts at True Potential, whose apps are used by millions of consumers across the UK to manage their money.

All participants in this year’s Harrison Prize will now have the opportunity to gain paid work experience at True Potential’s Newcastle head office, working alongside 360 other employees in financial technology.

The Harrison Prize forms part of the study activities at the Beacon of Light, encompassing English, Maths, IT, business and health and wellbeing studies.

Since the Harrison Centre for Social Mobility was established at the Beacon of Light in 2018, hundreds of young people have learnt new skills at the Centre. Over 90 per cent have gone on to further education or work as a result.

Harrison Centre founder, David Harrison, said: “I was impressed with the thought and detail that had clearly gone into the presentations and that the learners had really grasped the concept and importance of money and saving.

“The support provided here at the Beacon of Light is second to none, the tutors are brilliant and it’s a different approach for people. It’s very hands-on and very effective.”

Lord John Bird MBE added: “I really enjoyed today, it was very exciting and interesting to meet the learners who have an enormous amount going for them but unfortunately have endured stumbling blocks along the way. I identified that because I went through that myself and I was very impressed with the quality of their work and their dedication.

“We need to level up and free up the UK and one of the best ways of doing it is showing examples of the Harrison Centre for Social Mobility and putting that into places where it’s most needed.”

True Potential Chief Executive, Daniel Harrison, said: “We’ve had lots of fantastic ideas from all five teams which have provided some real load of food for thought

“It’s fantastic when we do this type of project because we have our own ideas based on how we see the world and how we see our industry, so it’s great to hear the ideas of the students here because they are the next wave and next generation of savers and spenders.

“This is the second time I’ve had the privilege of being a judge for the Harrison Prize and the second time I’ve been blown away the enthusiasm the ideas from all of the learners and the support from the tutors as well.”

Dianne Pattison, Head of Delivery at True Potential, added: It’s been absolutely brilliant and I think what strikes me is just how easily and quickly the learners have grasped what we’re asking them to do, which is to build some sort of application for savers and the younger generation.

“One of the questions I asked them is have they enjoyed it and if it’s made them change the way they think about their own money and how they treat their savings. All of them said yes they had enjoyed and before they hadn’t really considered needing to save for something but this challenge has made them think differently.”

Foundation of Light Managing Director, Jamie Wright said “Our students really enjoy taking part in the Harrison Prize and the standard this year was really high. To have the opportunity to present ideas to such an impressive panel is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and I am really proud of the solutions the students presented. We are really grateful for the ongoing support from the Harrison Centre for Social Mobility and True Potential; the work they are doing is really supporting our young people and making a life-changing difference to our community.”

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