Connect Dacorum Dragons’ Apprentice Challenge

Alfie Brown

The Dragons’ Apprentice Challenge is a community project initiated by the Centre for Voluntary Service (CVS) St Albans and District. Schools and colleges across Hertfordshire take part (St Albans, Broxbourne/E. Herts, Welwyn and Hatfield, Watford, N. Herts/Stevenage and Dacorum). The Challenge provides a platform linking students from schools and colleges with local businesses and local charities/community groups.

Now in its ninth year here in Dacorum 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 or community group.  It is unique as it brings together partners in business (Dragons), local schools (Apprentices) and local charities.

Students are tasked with turning £100 into £1,000 or more for their designated charity/voluntary organisation through an enterprise/business activity, under the guidance and support of their business mentor (Dragon).  It provides opportunities for businesses to use their business skills to mentor a group of young people. The local community benefits as the money raised goes to a local organisation supporting their core aims and objectives. 

The challenge is run between September and March and is focused on Year 12 (lower sixth) students. A celebration event is held end of March / Beginning April to which all participants are invited.

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Participation in the Dragons’ Apprentice Challenge offers a win-win opportunity for all parties involved, creating the opportunity for excellent partnerships between local community groups and charities, businesses and young people, creating a stronger community over the long term.

Schools and Apprentices – it provides a cost effective alternative to other schools-based enterprise challenges. It support the development of business and project management skills for young people and an opportunity to network with potential employers of the future and build contacts for work experience. It also provides excellent background to include on personal statements for UCAS applications and Duke of Edinburgh Awards and looks very good on a CV. It is also an innovative way of developing employability skills.

Businesses – It provides a structured means to promote and encourage engagement between charity/community groups, local businesses and schools. It helps raise the profile of your organisation and the third sector in the area and it is a great development tool for an employee’s continual professional development.

Charities and community groups –  It not only provides funding support which, for smaller charities could be a substantial contribution to core costs, it also raises your profile and creates an opportunity to create long term partnerships with businesses and young people thus extending your network for volunteering and funding.


Between October and March teams of up to 8 young people (Apprentices) take up the challenge to turn £100 into £1,000 or more for a local charity or community group.  The teams may do this in any way they choose as long as they prepare a clear plan stating what their business idea is and how they aim to reach their target. (Sponsorship is only acceptable if it’s part of an overall event organised by the team.) All profits made by the teams go directly to their charity or community group.

The awards

  • Overall winner of the Dragons’ Apprentice Challenge
  • Most money earned
  • Most innovative product/service or business idea
  • Best example of close co-operation with your charity
  • Best Display Panel – judged on the evening of the awards event
  • Best Presentation – judged on the evening of the awards event

In addition, a team of judges called the SuperDragons may identify individuals they believe have made an outstanding contribution to the Challenge.

The final report template with meeting logs submitted will form the basis of the awards.

Most Money Earned

The final report will identify the profit made by each team for their designated charity/community group (income minus expenses). The Challenge is about entrepreneurship, so we encourage teams to be creative with their ideas.  Teams may increase their £100 seed capital in any way they choose, but as this is a business challenge, if they borrow money it must be paid back “with interest”.

Overall winner – the judging process

Teams will be judged not simply on what they achieved, but also on the way they managed themselves and their colleagues throughout the challenge.  This will be identified from the feedback the team, the Dragon and the charity/community group provide in the final report and meeting log. Having reviewed these documents, the SuperDragons will shortlist 6 teams to give a 5 minute presentation and answer questions at the Awards Ceremony in March 2021.  Plus all teams will present a Display Panel of their achievements.

To date the challenge has raised over £88,000 for local charities and has seen 520 pupils complete.

To get involved contact