In just over two weeks' time, second level students from around the country will meet for the national finals of the Student Enterprise Programme - a competition run by the country's Local Enterprise Offices. The competition aims to foster entrepreneurship in young people. Winners of the senior category at last year's awards was ROC Protection - run by Leaving Cert students Carl Cullen, Ross Byrne and Cormac Spain.

"Originally ROC Protection produced the hurling protective base layer," said Cormac Spain. "Basically it's a jersey that you wear under your club or county jersey that reduces the impact of a hurl or sliotar hitting you and reduces the likelihood of getting injured from, let's say a cracked rib or ruptured spleen."

It does this by adding padding to certain areas of the shirt - including the chest and shoulders - with the company also producing socks with shin protectors.


According to Carl Cullen, their success last year came after a lot of effort - including a previous entry in the awards and a long process from local to national level. However its idea eventually prevailed and its success at last year's awards has led to bigger things for the business. "After that we've got loads of stuff going for us; we were on the Late Late Show, we had a stand at the Ploughing Championships, and sold a lot more on the back of that," he said.

But not only are the founders trying to run a business - they are doing so while also preparing for their Leaving Certificate exams. According to Corman Spain, juggling the two is not easy - but they are managing it so far. "I suppose it's tricky enough, but that's life," he said. "You just find a balance between it. You have to prioritise things and make sacrifices. It is difficult but I think we're managing it alright."

Oisin Geoghegan, representative of the Local Enterprise Offices, said there are many other success stories coming from these second level students. "One of the key things about this programme is that it's very, very big," he said. "We have 23,600 students participating in this year's programme so that's enormous. All of those students are learning enterprise skills and they're learning about developing their start-up business - and that to us is the really crucial piece of this," he said.

Mr Geoghegan says it is important for young people to learn entrepreneurial skills in order to make them better capable of getting ahead when they eventually enter the workforce. "In our economy we always need to cultivate entrepreneurship and enterprise - we need businesses and start-ups and innovation in this country to create jobs and create wealth," he said. "We find that a lot of the kids who go through this programme do come back to us later on, after perhaps college or at some stage in their lives, and they come back with really good, innovative business ideas," he added.

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MORNING BRIEFS - Dublin headquartered pharmaceutical firm Shire has sold its oncology business to Servier for $2.4 billion. The business includes treatments focused on leukaemia and pancreatic cancer and last year had revenues of $262m. The deal involves a once-off cash payment by France-based Servier and gives the firm its first presence in the US market.

*** The construction industry continued to expand in March, according to the latest Purchasing Managers Index from Ulster Bank. However that growth was at a slower pace than before - partially due to the disruption stemming from Storm Emma. Housing activity continued to grow at the fastest pace, while sentiment within the industry remained broadly positive.

*** activist investment fund Elliott Advisors has upped its stake in Whitbread - the company behind Premier Inn hotels and Costa Coffee. The fund now holds a 6% stake in Whitbread- making it the largest single shareholder. It adds to the pressure already on Whitbread to separate its coffee and hotel operations into two separate businesses.