Dragons ApprenticeDacorum students raise over £10,000 for local charities in Dragons’ Apprentice Challenge

Winners of 2016/17 Challenge announced after budding entrepreneurs pitch to SuperDragons at Shendish Manor finals

27th March 2017 – Think Tank team from JFK School has been proclaimed the overall winner of the 5th annual Dacorum Dragons’ Apprentice Challenge which is organised by Connect Dacorum. The team was one of eight who completed the challenge and invited to present to the SuperDragons - leaders from the world of business, education, local government and charity - at this week’s Challenge Finals at Shendish Manor Hotel.

All teams from Dacorum 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.

Cllr Bob Mclean, Mayor of Dacorum, 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 Shendish Manor revealed the wealth of business lessons learned by the pupils as they staged everything from cake sales and quiz nights to offering friendship photos to hit their daunting targets.

Named as overall winners on the night were the team from JFK  School, who scooped a Snow Centre session for their efforts in support of Druglink charity.  Their Dragon was Peggy Barnard from Barnard & Co Employment Law Solutions. Peggy said “I am delighted of the hard work that Think Tank has done over the past six months and the teamworking skills that they have now developed.”

Other winners were:

Community Action Adeyfield  for Most Money Earned, prize of Tea and Cakes from Shendish Manor Hotel

Longdean Dragons  for Most Innovative Business Idea, prize of a meal from Nandos Restaurant in Jarman Park

Wisdom Waters from JFK for Close Co-operation with your Charity, prize of a game of footgolf at Little Hay Golf Club

Kings Langley Warriors for Best Display, prize of a voucher towards a meal from McDonalds Apsley

Team Sigma from JFK  for Best Presentation, prize of a Costa voucher

As they celebrated their successes all the teenagers agreed that the Dacorum Dragons Apprentice Challenge – now in its fifth 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 2016/17 Dacorum Challenge include: Adeyfield, Cavendish, Hemel Hempstead, JFK, Kings Langley and Longdean.

The teams are supported by Dragons from local businesses including: Riverside Shopping Centre, BAM Construct, Osborne, Ecoservice UK Ltd, Churchill Retirement Living, RES, Barnard & Co Employment Law, Affinity for Business and Witts Moloney Solicitors.

Charities/Community Groups to benefit include:  Community Action Dacorum, Rennie Grove Hospice, RNIB, Druglink, Gaddesden Riding for the Disabled, Waterways Experiences, Signpost and The Snow Sports Foundation.


The Challenge is organised by Connect Dacorum and runs annually from September – April. Any schools, businesses or charities across Dacorum that are interested in taking part in Dragons’ Apprentice 2017/18 should contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


Notes for Editors

Originally conceived in St Albans, the Dragons’ Apprentice Challenge offers Year 12 students the opportunity to experience setting up and running a business, gaining organisational and job related skills and learning about the work and beneficiaries of their designated charity.

The Challenge is being run simultaneously across Hertfordshire with a total of 53 teams in

Broxbourne & East Herts



North Herts

St Albans

Welwyn & Hatfield

The SuperDragons for the 2016/17 Challenge were:

Dave Gaze, from the Dragons Apprentice Challenge St Albans

Lesley Crisp, Assistant Team Leader in Strategic Planning and Regeneration from Dacorum Borough Council

Claire Dutton, Business Teacher at West Herts College

Image smallHere is the latest Connect Dacorum Opportunities List for your consideration. There is a wide variety of needs listed below and if you can help with any, have any of the items or money to pay for them, then please come back to me initially for more information.

If you have any items that are not listed below but you do not need anymore and would like to give to charity, please let me know. 

  • At Community Action Dacorum we value the opportunity to be able to provide community groups who are concerned with the welfare of the elderly, disabled and young people in Dacorum the chance to hire minibuses. Groups hire the minibuses for a variety of reasons from transporting members to support meetings to day trips out.  To enable us to deliver this cost effective service to the community and to raise funds to replace vehicles we seek sponsorship from organisations.  Benefits of sponsorship include a ‘roaming’ advert driving around Dacorum and beyond, awareness of your organisation to group who hire the minibus, over 200 groups and a visible presence of your organisation within the community.  We have a ‘new’ vehicle joining our fleet at the end of January/beginning February ready for a sponsor.  If you would like to find out more please contact Deborah Fogden, Community Transport Manager on 01442 253935 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
  • Our very first Connect Dacorum Golf Day which will be held on Friday 19th May 2017 at the prestigious Harpenden Common Golf Club. The aim of the day is to have fun whilst raising money for two local charities - Age UK Dacorum and Community Action Dacorum (Connect Dacorum). Registration will be from 12.30pm where you can have bacon butties and tea/coffee before you play.  We will be having a Shotgun Start at 2pm which means that all players will be starting and finishing around the same time, and means that we are able to dine together at the end of the day (when prizes are awarded and raffles drawn, etc). The cost per team is £300, which includes tea/coffee and a bacon roll at the start, the round of golf and a delicious 2 course carvery meal in the evening.  Non players are welcome to attend the dinner, for only £22.50.If you would like to enter a team and/or sponsor a hole, or maybe know of someone else who would enjoy the day, I have attached the booking form and a poster for your staff room / intranet.
  • If you have visited the Civic Centre in Hemel over the past few years, you will have noticed the Coffee Cart.  This is run by Druglink who are a great charity working with people on prevention, recovery and reintegration.  Now that Dacorum Borough Council have moved into the Forum, the Coffee Cart is looking for a new home.  Can your reception area help? 
  • Dragons Apprentice Team – Think Tank - from JFK school are running a Zumba session on Friday 20th Jan from 7-8pm at JFK school.  £5 entry fee.  All money raised will go to their local charity Druglink and will help them in their Dragons Apprentice Challenge. 
  • Bennetts End Neighbourhood Association are looking for a new treasurer.  A couple of hours a month is all that is required and the yearly books are outsourced to a company.  It’s just to check the running of the day to day business.  They use Quickbooks Accounting package. 
  • The Hospice Lottery support 5 local hospices and are currently looking for local workplaces where they can talk about the Hospice Lottery to employees in a busy foyer area, staff restaurant or event at a company event.  For more information see attached document.
  • The Old Town Hall is delighted to present a new season of friendly and welcoming vintage film screenings this year in partnership with Age UK (Dacorum) and Derrick Bridges & Co. These screenings are especially designed for senior citizens, dementia, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s sufferers and their supporters. Each screening has an interval of 20 minutes, the lights are only slightly dimmed and sound is played at a lower level. The season will open with Calamity Jane on Thursday 26 January at 2pm. Tickets for Relaxed Classics screenings are £4 (includes tea, coffee and biscuits). 
  • Tesco has kindly agreed to allow RNIB to do several store collections in and around Hemel Hampstead and they are looking for help from voluntary members who may be able to assist for a couple of hours on the day. The activity they need help with is bucket collections outside the Tesco. Fundraising collections is a common method of raising money for RNIB, and they can be particularly effective because: (a) It offers an opportunity for the general public to participate actively (b) Enables supporters to raise funds in an ethical and secure manner.  RNIB will provide secure collection buckets and RNIB t-shirts and collect both after collection.  The purpose of this collection is to raise money for their free Talking Book service and helpline. Collection dates and locations: Friday 20th January - Luton Tesco Metro.  Saturday 28th January – St Albans Tesco Metro.  Friday 10th February - Hatfield Tesco Extra.  Friday 27th January - Borehamwood Tesco Extra
  • The Hospice of St Francis is running some fabulous fun events in 2017 including a Bubble Rush in Gadebridge Park and a Garden Party and MudPack Challenge in Ashridge House and they need sponsors to help offset the cost of running them so that more money goes towards supporting our patients and their families. If you, or one of your clients, wants to get your name splashed all over Dacorum and surrounding areas and support your local charity please let us know.
  • The Heather Club is a weekly club for the elderly, confused or people with severe memory loss and its members receive a hot midday meal, adapted minibus transport if required, refreshments, games and entertainment and they desperately need volunteers. The club runs on Mondays and Wednesday between 10am and 3pm.  Potential volunteers can obviously choose what time they would like to work. We need people to interact with members, play games, sing, dance etc, and the more mundane tasks of washing up and clearing up.
  • DENS are running a Quiz night on Saturday 25 February from 7.30pm at JFK School.  It’s a great fun night.  Ticket price: £13. For further information please call 01442 880268 or email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
  • Waterways Experiences, the Accessible Boating charity at Nash Mills, continues to flourish taking a big range of groups on day and residential boat trips.  We are 100% Volunteers.   BUT we have a rough old car park which is difficult for the frail, elderly, and wheel chair users to cross to reach our 3 wide-beamed, disabled-friendly boats.  So we need help with planning refurbishment of the car park, choosing the right surface and treatment for adjacent high bank, finding a good contractor, funding (probably about £50k) unless a Connect Dacorum Member can find us a friendly contractor.  If you could help, or give us helpful pointers, please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to arrange a discussion.  PS If you know a group who would like a trip, see our web site wexp.org.uk
  • Raffle prizes for Charity Dinner for local Hospice at Home Charity - Rennie Grove Hospice Care will be holding their Question of Sport Charity Dinner in March.  Last year this event raised enough money to cover a year’s salary of one of the Hertfordshire Hospice at Home nurses and we are hoping to match that this year.  If anyone has any goods that they would be willing to donate for use at the raffle at the event they would be very gratefully received and would help us to ensure that we continue to offer 24/7 Hospice at Home to local patients in Dacorum and Hertfordshire.  We are happy to come and collect any donations. 
  • Sunnyside Rural Trust  require the following equipment – (Hemel Food Garden) 2 lockable 4 drawer filing cabinets, 2 office chairs, (for mess room/office) 3 office chairs for portacabin office (AC) 3 office chairs, shelving for new office, we will also need desks or if possible that the builders could build in desks along walls? We also need some more lockable facilities, though this can be varied sizes. Fans for the summer may be useful if they are available. Cupboard for files.  We are also looking for items for our new café; display shelves, fridge, freezer, crockery, cutlery, pots & pans, cake stands, art for the walls and all kitchen utensils.
  • Dacorum Community Trust are pleased to accept donations of any size in order to support Dacorum residents who are in need of financial help.
  • The Volunteer Centre Dacorum have a number of other Team Build Challenges and also many individual volunteering opportunities for your staff.

CAV04 smallOne Hundred and sixty Year 10 pupils from Cavendish School took part in an Employability Skills event on Tuesday 19th and Wednesday 20th January organised and run by Connect Dacorum.  The pupils were in groups of around 8, and each group had a facilitator from local businesses 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, putting themselves in the mind of an employer looking at CVs for a new trainee graphic designer and critiquing them before moving on to looking in more detail at their own CVs and giving advice.  The second session 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 “this is the first time Connect Dacorum has organised this at Cavendish School having previously run it for the past couple of years at Longdean School and Hemel Hempstead School and it is great to see how much both the pupils and facilitators get out of the experience”.

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 “I have learnt how to speak and present myself during an interview or phone call and how to make a good CV”.  Another said “Interviews are hard and scary but I will apply what I have learnt to gain confidence”.

Cavendish School said that “the feedback from students and teachers has been overwhelmingly positive and appreciative.  Our senior leadership team were extremely impressed when they called in to see the event in progress, and they heard from students afterwards that the event was very useful.”

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. 

Lucy Wall from Parker Hannifin said “It was great to impart my knowledge as an employer to students. They were very engaged throughout the workshop and felt the materials will be useful to them in future".

Gordon Dickins from Tutor Doctor said “A real sense of engagement with the purpose of our workshop emerged from the two groups of young people that I had the pleasure of working with over the past couple of days. Open eyes and minds and a better understanding of how to approach their futures appeared to be the outcome, and 100% participation made for lively and I believe enjoyable sessions for all concerned!”

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


Sally Ash – The Waterways Experiences

Andrew Bayram - magistrate

Hannah Bailey - Osbourn

Tara Brady – Aubrey Park Hotel

Jamie Chandler – Selex ES

Nick Crispin – magistrate

Nick Cummins – Parker Hannifin

Louis Devayya – Dacorum Borough Council

Gordon Dickens – The Tutor Doctor

Martin Gomme – Hemel Cartridges

Karen Gosen – Gaddesden Place Riding for the Disabled

Olga Harte – Parker Hannifin

Tina Howard – Borough Councillor

Lesley Jones – De-Novo Consultants

Jackie Jones – Tate Recruitment

Ellie MacDonald – Opal Mortgage Solutions

Emma Munro - RES

Janice O’Neil – Business Buzz, Hemel

Adam Parrish – Selex ES

Lucy Wall – Parker Hannifin

Lumina Technologies

Work Solutions are a supported employment service supporting clients with a wide range of disabilities and mental ill health to secure and maintain paid employment. They assess their clients’ skills and abilities by approaching employers to ask for work tasters (short term unpaid work trials) to ensure they can match their clients skills to the needs of the post they are applying for and are also helpful in gaining references to support their future applications.

A current client, Gemma, is a young lady on the Autistic spectrum (Asperger’s Syndrome) who wants to work within the Admin sector. Connect Dacorum put them in touch with Richard McBarnet from Lumina Technologies Ltd who offer IT support for a wide variety of companies supporting them with software issues.

After an initial meeting a work taster was arranged for Gemma for 2 full days working alongside the team and supporting them with the running of the business. To enable Gemma to get the best out of the work taster Work Solutions devised a structured work list, explaining her duties for the duration of the time she was there. This was a great benefit to Gemma and she quickly got to grips with the work tasks and what was expected of her. She shadowed team members and had her own work station where she could complete duties independently. The feedback from Gemma was excellent, she felt part of the team and found them all very supportive and approachable.

Richard McBarnet from Lumina Technologies said ‘I first became aware of Work Solutions at a Connect Dacorum networking event and was immediately impressed with what they had to offer and the support they provided to people who traditionally have found it hard to find meaningful employment.

Shortly afterwards an email went out from Connect Dacorum asking if anyone could offer a work taster to a young lady with Aspergers. Coinciding with our own desire to be more involved with the local community and to help disadvantaged people in the area and having had no experience of Aspergers we jumped at the chance as it seemed an ideal opportunity to “dip our toe in the water” and understand better the impact and reality of employing someone with the condition.

We arranged a short interview and met with Gemma who impressed us with her willingness and commitment to spending time with us. Gemma has so far spent two days with us during which we gave her a variety of areas to gain some exposure to, including technical documentation, checking data backups, updating our core database and auditing part of our remote access solution. The team have all been impressed with Gemma’s dedication, attention to detail and warm disposition and her presence has certainly dispelled a few pre-conceptions of life with Aspergers.

We are now looking to see if we can offer Gemma an apprenticeship to give her a direct, paid, involvement with Lumina Technologies. Our experience with Gemma and with Work Solutions has been very positive and an involvement with the local community I would encourage all organisations to become involved with.’

Woodturning 1The Repair Shed is a Community Action Dacorum project. Hosted by Sunnyside Rural Trust at their Hemel Food Garden site in central Hemel Hempstead, it brings men aged 50+ together to stay healthier and happier for longer through making, mending and learning.

Having seen Project Manager Chris Lee’s presentation on The Repair Shed at the Connect Dacorum lunchtime meeting back in February, Martin Gomme of Hemel Cartridges decided to donate to the scheme a woodturning lathe that he no longer uses: the lathe needs some ‘tlc’ having not been used for several years and it would offer the chance for Repair Shed members to learn new skills and to make items to sell in support of the project – all three ‘mending’, ‘learning’ and ‘making’ boxes ticked!

As well as being a keen woodturner himself, Martin is also the Chairman of Herts & Beds Woodturners and he put together and presented an introductory woodturning course spread over three sessions covering personal safety, the use of tools and basic spindle and bowl turning. The club provided lathes, tools and perhaps most importantly, one-to-one supervision by experienced club members. The seven learners on the course attended all the sessions and they all went away with a piece of turning they made themselves – including a bud vase, a Japanese doll and garden dibbers.  

Thanks to members of Herts & Beds Woodturners, Sarah Luke from Herts County Council’s Creative Learning team and Emma Matthars at Hemel Food Garden for their help in making this a successful course.