winners smallDacorum students raise over £10,500 for local charities in Dragons’ Apprentice Challenge

Winners of 2021/22 Challenge announced after budding entrepreneurs pitch to SuperDragons at Pendley Manor Hotel finals

28th March 2022 – Team Sicilian from John F Kennedy School has been proclaimed the overall winner of the 9th annual Dacorum Dragons’ Apprentice Challenge which is organised by Connect Dacorum. The team was one of eight who took part in the challenge and invited to present to the SuperDragon judges - leaders from the world of business, education and local government - at this week’s Challenge Finals at Pendley Manor Hotel.                             

All teams from local secondary schools were supplied with £100 stake and challenged to turn it into £1,000 or more, with support and advice from mentors within the borough’s business community. 

The teenage tycoons in waiting stepped up to tackle a charity challenge and were showered with praise on Monday night.  The SuperDragons were impressed with their all round business abilities as well as the confident way in which they presented themselves, always representing their charity.  Especially tough this year with the covid restrictions in place throughout the challenge, the teams showed determination and perseverance in their aim to raise as much money as possible for their charity.

Cllr Richard Roberts, Leader of Hertfordshire County Council, presented the awards and inspired the audience of young people, businesses and charities by emphasising the practical value of the Dragons’ Apprentice Challenge. Presentations at the finals night at Pendley Manor Hotel revealed the wealth of business lessons learned by the pupils as they staged everything from sweet sales and quiz nights to boat trips and chess tournaments.

Named as overall winners on the night were the team from John F Kennedy School, who scooped a Snow Centre snowboarding and ringos session for their efforts in support of Watford FC Community Trust.  Their Dragon was Jamie Dean-Brown from SWARCO who said “I am so proud of the team, they threw themselves into the challenge and came away with a multitude of new skills such as communication, teamwork and perseverance, learning continually throughout the challenge on how they can improve the next event. They’ve learnt skills for life from this process and I am chuffed to bits that all their hard work has seen them win overall.”

Other winners were: 

Most Money raised:  Ashlyns Enterprise from Ashlyns School who raised £3140.00 for their charity Community Action Dacorum.  Their Dragon was John English from Whitestar Solutions.

Best Business idea:  Sicilian from John F Kennedy School. Their Dragon was Jamie Dean-Brown from SWARCO and their charity was Watford FC Community Trust

Close Co-operation with Charity: Pallas from John F Kennedy School.  Their Dragon was Robert Males from Underwoods Solicitors and their charity was The Hospice of St Francis

Best Display:  Custom Crafted from John F Kennedy School. Their Dragon was Harry Dear from Metro Bank and their charity was The Blue Tangerine Federation

Best Presentation:  5G from Sir John Lawes School.  Their Dragon was Computacentre and their charity was Gaddesden Place RDA.

Most Resilient – Sail Out from Ashlyns School.  Their Dragon was Joanne Heary and April Harbour from Atlas Copco and their charity was Waterways Experiences.

As they celebrated their successes all the teenagers agreed that the Dacorum Dragons Apprentice Challenge – now in its ninth year – was both a lot more work than they had ever realised but a test that both developed their skills and gave them a chance to get involved in their community.

Schools who completed the 2021/22 Challenge: Ashlyns, Hemel Hempstead, John F Kennedy, Sir John Lawes.

The teams are supported by Dragons from local businesses including: Whitestar Solutions, Atlas Copco, Hemel Hempstead Business Ambassadors, Underwoods Solicitors, Metro Bank, SWARCO, Computacentre, The Katalyst Coach.

Charities/Community Groups to benefit include:  Community Action Dacorum, Gaddesden Riding for the Disabled, Waterways Experiences, Herts Inclusive Theatre, Hospice of St Francis, The Blue Tangerine Federation, Dacorum Mencap, Watford FC Trust

The Challenge is organised by Connect Dacorum and runs annually from September to April. Any schools, businesses or charities across Dacorum that are interested in taking part in Dragons’ Apprentice 2022/23 should contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

The SuperDragons for the 2021/22 Challenge were:

Dave Gaze, from the Dragons Apprentice Challenge

Lesley Crisp, Principal Economic Development Officer from Hertsmere Council

Claire Dutton, Business Lecturer at the University of Hertfordshire

HHS facilitatorsOne Hundred and Eighty Year 10 pupils from Hemel Hempstead School took part in an Employability Skills event on Wednesday 2nd March organised and run by Connect Dacorum.  The pupils were in groups of 8, and each group had a facilitator from local businesses or charity who had given up their morning to help the children with CV writing and interview skills.

All students were in the hall which instantly created a buzz. The event was interactive for the pupils – interviewing their facilitators before moving on to looking in more detail at their own CVs and giving advice.  The second half concentrated on interview skills with mock interviews and also a fun “speed interviewing” game. The pupils came away with lot of helpful feedback and advice directly from employers about what they look for in a CV, covering letter and throughout the interview process.

Cindy Withey, Manager of Connect Dacorum praised the pupils and facilitators for a great day “Hemel Hempstead School will be very proud of their Year 10’s who were engaged in the session.  It’s a pleasure for Connect Dacorum to organise these events as it benefits the pupils but is also very rewarding for our facilitators to help shape the future workforce”.

The pupils also completed a feedback sheet at the end of the day with most of them of them saying that it was really helpful.  One wrote “When I go for an interview I need to be confident, even if I don’t feel it and on your CV you need to show yourself off”.  Another said “I will apply what I have learnt by potentially trying to get a Saturday job and work over the summer.”

“ A very big thank you for supporting the employability sessions at the school.  The staff commented on the nice atmosphere in the hall, with pretty much all of the students working well with you and really engaged in the process.  I am sure it will have helped with their confidence enormously and will have set them up for their work experience placements in May. It is great that they can get such good advice from you and use it in the future” said Sue Bond, Careers Leader, Hemel Hempstead School.

The facilitators came from a wide variety of backgrounds and businesses (full list see below), all willing to give up their time to help shape the future generation and pass on valuable advice.  Karen Walker, Head of Nursing – Children’s Services at Watford General Hospital said

“As a Head of Nursing for Children’s Services at West Hertfordshire Hospitals NHS Trust I am really passionate about ensuring that there is support available to nurture and develop our young people who are our future workforce. Participating in the employability workshop was an amazing opportunity to do this and develop their skills in writing good quality CVs, practice their interview skills and technique whilst having some fun along the way.

The students were really engaged, fun and enjoyed the sessions and should also be incredibly proud of what they achieved themselves on the day.”

If there are any businesses who would like their staff to be involved and become a facilitator for these events in future please contact Cindy Withey at Connect Dacorum on This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Christy Woodgate - Dacorum Borough Council

Paul Yearley – Island Youth Projects        

Nicola Aquila - Rennie Grove Hospice

Will Hobhouse - Sarratt Equity

Carole Yearley - midwife

Lesley Crisp - Hertsmere Council

Karen Walker – Head of Nursing – Children’s Services, Watford General Hospital

Helen Parker – HR expert

Peggy Barnard - Barnard Webb Solicitors

Sarah Askey - Osborne Infrastructure Ltd

Nicola Weymouth – Osborne Infrastructure Ltd

Emma Norris - B&M Care

Colleen Wood - B&M Care

Harry Dear - Metro Bank

Post Christmas DacorumHave you got an unused laptop at the back of your cupboard that you do not use anymore, or did you get a new laptop or tablet for Christmas?

The Hertfordshire-wide Staying Connected project is looking for second hand laptops and tablets which we will then securely wipe (and provide you with a certificate of completion) and give out to people who's health has been negatively affected by not being on line. This project is also supported by Tesco Mobile and Vodafone with access to connectivity and funds raised by Sir Captain Tom for the NHS Charities.

We currently have a waiting list of people ready for equipment and training on how to use it, so please contact me for details.

PosterSince 2014 Connect Dacorum has been running Employability Days (CV and interview skills) at local secondary schools and although we had to run it virtually last year, we will be back in person for 2022.  It’s a very successful programme with around 2735 pupils who have gone through our Employability Days and over 1,355 hours volunteered by you lovely lot.  Can you help out this year?

This is a half day session whereby volunteers from businesses and charities help a small group of students (8-10 in each group) go through an interactive morning of CV writing, application forms and interview techniques. The students are 14/15 years old so they are at the very beginning of their journey into thinking about their careers.  They will have already done a basic CV which will be available for you to review.  There will also be some fun interview games.

Hemel Hempstead School have booked us in for Wednesday 2nd March and the day starts at 8.30am and finishes at 1.30pm.

We need YOU.

Everyone of us has experience of writing CVs and going for interviews, so I would be grateful if you could get the word around your organisations and let me know if you have any volunteers.  I am looking for around 15 people to help out.  

Previously the facilitators came from a wide variety of backgrounds and businesses, all willing to give up their time to help shape the future generation and pass on valuable advice. 

“Really enjoyable day spent with the students – very bright futures ahead.” Said Olivia Tunnell from UK Power Reserve.

Jeanette Squire from Squires Estates was equally positive about the event “I have just spent a positive morning teaching CV and interview skills to pupils, an experience I found to be very rewarding as they felt and appeared a lot more confident at the end of the sessions.”

The pupils also completed a feedback sheet at the end of the day with all of them of them saying that it was helpful.  One wrote “I have found about interviews and a variety of skills needed”.  Another said “I will apply the communication skills that I have developed.”


If you would like to volunteer your time or find out more information, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.