Kickstarting Young Digital Entrepreneurs

A social enterprise is helping young people in Leigh to become digital entrepreneurs through designing and 3D printing products for sale.

The budding manufacturers attended the Summer MakerSpace Camp at Leigh Hackspace throughout the month of August, which was run by The Blair Project, and funded by Wigan Council’s Deal for Communities Investment Fund.

The Blair Project, which was founded by 21-year-old Nile Henry, specialises in providing practical training for young people aged 14 – 19 years in the fast growth sectors of digital design and manufacturing to tackle skills shortages, and boost career and self-employment prospects.

The diverse product range includes phone cases, personalised bronze plaques, homeware, figurines and lamps. The products will officially go on sale on a new Made in Wigan online store as well as being available to purchase from Trust In Leigh on Market Street.

“Regardless of your age or education, with enough time and effort, anyone can start creating their own products and earn money.” – Nile Henry

However, family and friends have been buying up the stock as quickly as the young people have been making them. More than 20 orders have been received and generating profits of £50 – money part of which the young entrepreneurs get to keep, with the rest being reinvested back into the project..

Nile said: “Young people take to technology like ducks to water. Additive manufacturing is an ideal industry for young people to get into. Regardless of your age or education, with enough time and effort, anyone can start creating their own products and earn money.

15-year-old Lewis Chasle from Tydlesley cache of goodies includes a Skull Lamp, toy figurines, and pieces of art, which are on display at the Travelling Man comic Bookstore in Manchester City Centre.

Said Lewis “it’s mad what you can do with a 3D printer. Anything you can imagine you can create. It’s just insane. I had no ambition, goals or purpose before. I know now I want to be a designer and pursue this as a career.”

Some of the other makers include:- Zak Baker(15) from Atherton who used a Fuel 3D scanner to scan his dog Loulou and parents Stan and Hazel to produce beautiful bronze plaques, whilst brother Matt (19) has been making super hero figurines and homeware products. Jamielee Collier (15) has produced several phone cases for family and friends.

Councillor Chris Ready, cabinet member for communities at Wigan Council, said: “We are delighted to support such a wonderful project which is helping to equip our young people with vital digital skills. These skills, along with encouraging an entrepreneurial nature will help put our young people on the right track.

“So far the Community Investment Fund has had a massive impact on communities. The next round of funding will open in September when £2.5m will be available for communities to bid for.”

As an additional treat, a small group of the young digital entrepreneurs will get to visit the manufacturing plant of Croft AM in Risley, a Warrington-based business which provides state-of-the-art metal additive manufacturing opportunities to a range of industries in the UK and overseas.

Director Neil Burns said: “3D printing is an exciting industry that young people can get into via a number of different routes, including apprenticeship schemes and through innovative programmes such as The Blair Project. By showing these entrepreneurs the benefits of a career in additive manufacturing, we hope to have inspired some of the next generation of UK industry.

“Addressing the growing skills shortage is becoming increasingly urgent for the UK. In the engineering sector alone, there are more than 2.5 million job openings expected within the next six years. However, figures from EngineeringUK suggest that half of all businesses predict difficulty in recruiting STEM-skilled staff. Initiatives such as this can help bridge this shortfall and position the UK as a leader in cutting edge manufacturing techniques.