Meet a woman who started her working life with an organisation she helped at the inception, and went back to once her children were almost grown up. Fiona Captur is a force to be reckoned with, and its reassuring to know young people’s futures are under her dynamic spell.
Full transcript of the interview:
Monique: Welcome to the woman behind with me Monique Chambers so my guest this weak is Fiona Captur. So you’re behind and very very deeply involved with JAYE.
Fiona: I am indeed.
Monique: So tell us what is JAYE and what do they do? Fiona: JAYE stands for Junior Achievement Young Enterprise. Monique: Okay.
Fiona: And we probably better be known as Young Enterprise, which is how it started back in Malta in 1988. So we are very much running up to our 30th anniversary this year, December 18th and there’s number of events running to celebrate that. So Young Enterprise as it was known at the time came to move the 1988. And its main emphasis at the time was what is still to this day known as company program which runs for the lower six students who are just starting sixth form. And the plan there is they start up their own business, and they literally run the full lifespan of a company. So they have to come up with a products, they’ve got to come up with some form of analysis and research as to whether the product is feasible, whether it is something the market would like to buy, and therefore they have to come up with marketing plans, business plans, budgets, and really figure out how to actually make it, launch it, sell it and hopefully make some money and so then they come to a full circle of running a company towards May which is coming up to the end of their first year and then at that point they actually goes through the process of liquidation. So they actually see the life cycle in its complete form. So they actually put the company to bed, it’s all done as well.
In some occasional situations, sometimes the products actually do stay on and actually retain the life of their own if they’ve been that successful. And it’s not something that happens very often. But it has happened and I probably I would imagine in this day and age is something that could possibly happen more often.
Monique: So do the kids get involved with things like the branding and the design and you know, the literally making a product of that stuff?
Fiona: Absolutely. And quality control and budgeting and financial reporting and therefore financial literacy and all that goes with that said, yes.
Monique: So you talked about financial literacy. What do you mean by that?
Fiona: Well, learning to read a set of accounts, learning to understand that you have to be accountable for all the money that’s coming in and the money that’s going out and they come up with it own share scheme. So people buy shares into their little company. And obviously you have to give your shareholders dividends. And therefore you need to make money to be able to give those dividends. And so they have to appoint a treasurer usually, and somebody who looks after the cash side of things and so a sense of responsibility in terms of quality control what the costs of the product are going to be in terms of in relation to how it’s going to be sold, and what’s going to be sold for. And so everything has to kind of make sense that something’s going to be financially feasible enough to then be able to make a profit.
Monique: So you think it also gives kids the opportunity to understand how hard it is to actually make money ? And how easy it is to spend money ?
Fiona: Absoluetely. And how easy it is to lose money before you’ve even made any. Obviously, you know, they don’t really have an understanding of the scale of things. So until they find their feet I think a few mistakes are usually done and there’s usually some financial consequence to that. But you know there have been situations where they’ve come up with some fantastic ideas and they’ve sold really well and they’ve done really well.
I think we had one example was flashcards at O level standards for all the subjects actually bought them for my daughter who was an O level year at that point and so they actually got all the teachers to review the syllabus for all the subjects and came up with flashcards that would support all the studying processes towards the O level mock sec exam syllabi. So it proved really really popular and even the Minister of Education actually bought into that and and distributed in school so
Monique: I hope they’re still working out
Fiona: I believe there was a plan not entirely sure whether at this point but they
certainly did very very well and they sold very well
Monique: So what kind of schools are involved with this kind of program. So it sounds quite sort of high end to me.
Fiona: Basically six forms so it’s a but we try to rope in as many of them as possible. It’s states independent church schools all encompassing.
Monique: And how many kids would be in a group? Is it like a whole classroom? Or do you split up a classroom into different teams.
Fiona: They tend to, obviously depending on how many students subscribe to the program per school, then they tend to be split up into teams and teams tend to be more or less between 10 and 15 people. They sometimes end up growing more or dwindling, or there’s quite a lot of kind of restructuring in the first three months until they find their feet and it all kind of settles down a bit.
Monique: But in this process, I guess they’re learning about their strengths and their weaknesses and team work.
Monique: And you have to do your bit for the next person to do their bit. So
Exactly. Proper Life Skills.
Fiona: Yes, proper life skills and learning to communicate which I think in this day and age is actually because has become a bigger issue and then perhaps we remember it in our time anyway. And needing to physically talk to people and debate and discuss and make your point and substantiate your point. And obviously the sense of responsibility for what you’re doing and that the fact that people are relying on you and therefore you can’t let the team down. So there’s this quite a bit quite a bit of dynamics going on there.
Monique: And different skills, learning different skills and being able to work to your strengths, also having the opportunity to work on your weaknesses, I guess.
Fiona: Yes, there’s a lot of that and it’s very very funny because obviously they work towards and through the program and they have to come up with a product and and then the production of the product, whatever that’s going to be and then they have to put a business plan together and the marketing plan and a bit of research to see how it’s going to hit the market and if it will suit the market and towards the end they have trade fairs where they actually sell all these things within their own school.
Monique: Oh cool. So they have stores within their own school so that’s external.
Fiona: In recent years it has been happening at the points then we take over the whole of the point at all levels and they have stores all around the central area of the points. We even run programs for the younger kids in the lower levels so for the kind of primary school children they learned a few things there as well.
Monique: Ok. So primary school kids do it as well ?
Fiona: Yes it’s at a smaller scale obviously it’s a one day event, it’s not something that runs for the whole year. But it’s great because then obviously after that, then they have their final presentation in May which is on stage usually at the Hilton’s conference centers a very big event it’s quite a high profile event and the teams have to give a presentation and present the product, their findings, their successes and their stories and of course they all take part and everyone does their own bits by then they figured out who the good one that speaking is and who the good one at Digital graphics is. So everyone certainly comes up with a presentation that gives the best angle the most important, so I think it gives an opportunity to find themselves more than anything else
Monique: Yeah know a bit more before you head out to university so your first placement or whatever.
Monique: Because otherwise it’s bit of a minefield you get there and you think it’s just about what’s new lunch box but it’s actually you know working out who else is involved in each company its quite daunting I think.
Fiona: Yes it’s very funny because you talk to someone and of course Young Enterprise now has been going on for 30 years and we’ve had some amazing success stories coming out of all the alumni we’ve had basically and they all you know when you ask them questions about their experience. They remember the oddest things that obviously left an impact on their minds at the time.
Monique: What was the story?
Fiona: I have to quote Joe actually Joke just cracked me up on time cuz she said and they put her in charge of quality control and she had no idea what a quality control was or does a company needed to have it ? [Laughs] It’s these kind of things that don’t normally cross students’ minds until you’re actually put on the spot and told you know, your product needs to actually be feasible and reliable and where the of somebody’s paying for it
Monique: I have to tell you now I’ll tell Joe next time I see her that I used to work within quality control for a chocolate factory which actually was quite dull in most cases because you have to make sure the measurements of everything was right and the viscosity of chocolate was correct records. But it did also be that you had to taste everything
Fiona: Yes, I can imagine.
Monique: Which is wonderful.
Fiona: I can imagine. How long were you there ?
Monique: For seven years. [Laughs] I should say seven stone because it luckily was a big enough place. But yeah, that was part of the quality control within a chocolate factory.
S Fiona: o yeah you obviously whatever the product is, you have to come up with your parameters as far as what quantifies quality control. To go back to the flashcards obviously, quality control was very much making sure that the syllabus was being tackled by the content of the flashcards that was not leaving anything of vital importance out the students would miss out for an exam. It’s quite of a responsibility.
Monique: It is actually when you think of something literally that yes, it’s not trying unless it’s life changing.
Fiona: So they’ve come up with all sorts of ideas. And obviously when you look at the history of Young enterprises Malta, and obviously the changes that have happened in 30 years obviously in 1988-89, typically the products would be a wall clock or set of coke coasters. Now it’s apps and it’s all technological. So you see you see the changes in technology coming out and products over the 30 years which is actually quite interesting as well
Monique: I’m sure some of the people that run these programs actually learn a lot as well because the technology and the way teenagers talk and market and think is completely different to us growing up.
I Fiona: remember this I could go on about flair because they were the ones who kind of you know, really stood out with this flash card thing. When I came to buying the flashcards I was really impressed because he had I think it was five pick up points. So depending on which part of the island you were in, they would come to that particular. You know, I live in a shower. So my pickup point was Villarigo because obviously it’s something it’s a place everybody knows somehow so they had places specific to the area around the island and and they had I believe it was if you bought five we got to go to the next one free or a discount or whatever, so you had really worked out so the principles behind how to sell well and so they really kind of took that on board, distribution was spot on. Really really impressed
Monique: So you’re saying JAYE has been around for 30 years what’s your involvement been over this 30 years ?
Fiona: Well interestingly Young Enterprise at the time was my first job fresh out of university. So thats the first thing that landed on my lap or something to get my teeth stuck into I had a phenomenal amount of energy in those days and didn’t know what to do with myself .
Monique: You still have. [Laughs]
Fiona: And it was great to visit. It required you to be in 20 places at once. Of course we had no mobiles, I didn’t drive so did everything by bus everything manual. But somehow we got it done. It was quite crazy. So, the importance of the time was Yound Enterprise was very new to Malta and obviously there wasn’t that much for students to do in those days. So something that appealed very easily to the students. And they got stuck in very, very intensely. And so it’s involved going out to meet all the teams and all the different schools on a regular basis. Getting hold of mentors and people in the professions to really help to give their time and their energy to mentor these students and to kind of be there as advisors when they need them. Putting together anything to do with press and promotion to get as much coverage for them as possible. Always to have their trade fairs to be able to actually sell the products they’ve actually made.
And then to the full final presentation at the end of the year with obviously those who have been successful and a few let’s go by the wayside as well because every year there’s always a few that don’t actually quite make it. It’s less and less and obviously we intervene much quicker now because you hear about these things much faster than we used to in those days. And so you can literally get people back on track before they give up too soon.
Monique: And teaching them how to, you know, in entrepreneurship we always talk about pivoting and how you can save something or realize it’s a Darden, you know, quick move on to the next thing, use the stuff you learned to do something else. So it is a slightly different environment. So what’s your role today? What do you do ?
Fiona: Well I got tracked back into the board level this time.They’ve been asking me to go back for quite a few years but my kid was still getting through O levels and stuff so I didn’t really have the time and then literally coming up to two years now two years ago I kind of bit the bullet. So back on the board as a
board member and my area of interest is very much the program’s themselves. So very much the content its relevance to the working world today what we can tweak and add on to really kind of support the transition from the desk to the work environment and very much the practical angle of learning by doing. I think the beauty of Young Enterprise is that it takes away the books and perhaps even for students who are not as an academic as perhaps one might want them to be. It’s not the only way to then and the loss of students actually learned so much better by actually doing it and finding out for themselves.
Monique: And this is at least you know, they’re not having a name chats on their WhatsApp or whatever they’re actually be talking to each other about ideas and ways forward.
Fiona: Yep, and planning and then you know, very often Young Enterprise itself as a setup. We punctuates the year with various activities for them, so they have an opportunity to learn what’s expected of them. So they have sessions on marketing plans on how to put a business plan together. We bring in various experts and you know, people who are kind of young and successful in their own right in this day and age to make it much more attractive to them as well. And so we try to keep age conscious in terms of who gets involved. So there’s a lot of fun activities is a lot going on lots of events. And of course, they tend to create their own. So obviously when you get a bit of teamwork going, they end up being a great bunch of friends and doing a lot of other stuff together as well which is really nice to see.
Monique: So how you’re saying about you get experts involved, how do you get people to come along and help these kids.
Fiona: With a lot of hard work. Because, you know, that’s great. And the good thing today, obviously, is because social media and everything else is so easy to use the necessity to physically be in the same room all the time or at every opportunity isn’t as great as this was 30 years ago when there was no other option. So 30 years ago, most of the mentors would have to give a lot of dedicated time physical time in terms of being with the students possibly at their school for a minimum of two hours a week to kind of keep tabs of what they’re up to. And obviously today you can have that but then it’s easy for them to just get in touch and say oh what about this and you know deadline going wrong and whatever you know may have happening there’s always some other way of being in touch with them without having to kind of leave your desk
Monique: So what sorts of people do you look for as mentors are they always finance experts are they marketing experts or what ?
Fiona: To be honest we really take on anybody who’s willing to help us out because mentors are people who come from any industry with with a variety of experience and everyone has their own bits to contribute and so as far as students are concerned the more peppered that is with different experiences the richer they’re going to be for it so we really are quite happy to pull anyone along who’s basically got the will to be patient with a bunch of young people which is great fun.
Monique: And do you have any, I think there’s got to be a structure around there so you don’t just just one mentor have one team or do they have okay
Fiona: We do allocate mentors per team. We do try to allocate two mentors. So if one can’t make it there is always the other one. And you know, I mean like is what it is people get busy and situations happen. So we try to make sure the room is backed up one way or the other.
We’re obviously always at the end of the phones and literally, you know, agony answer the other end strain to make sure that everyone is on the right track all the time. But yes, the mentors are allocated a specific team which we find is quite important because they bond with them, They bond and they have their activities together. And by the end of their experience they’re good friends. In some cases some of the mentors actually remain in line with their students throughout their careers in fact so that quite nice.
I mean with somebody like HSBC for instance HSBC is one of our sponsors. HSBC has been a sponsor of Young Enterprise for as long as I can remember. So secondly there when I was there 30 years ago and I believe they have been with us right the way through which is great and and they also take a slightly Corporate Social Responsibility angle to it. So whenever we need to do training sessions for students in schools, they actually send their people for us to train so we train their people who then go in as people from the industry teaching the students in a class which has a very different impact to when a teacher tries to teach the students about the working world the two though kind kind of go together. Yeah, yeah, they come in and the uniforms and they go in as HSBC people and you know, the kids are very kind of Wow ! you know, these people are from the bank, you know, they’re from the bank and you kind of kick up that kind of excitement with young kids and it leaves an impact. So I think as far as the feedback we’ve had from trainers who have gone in, initially they feel very daunted, especially if they’ve never really faced a student an audience of students or children. It can be very frightening but once your boy was able not to you, it’s actually a lot of fun. And I love because I love going around the classrooms when these events are going on, and just peering through the window to see what’s happening. And you just see these faces with light bulb moments, you know, you can see them actually working out. Something’s
dawning on them. Oh, wow. I never thought of it that way. You know, and you realize that you actually having an impact, which I think is really quite special.
Monique: So what’s happening? You’re saying 30 years. You’ve got lots of events going on and got any big news coming up? Is there stuff that we should be looking out for from JAYE this year?
Fiona: Well, I think there’s so much. So this is our 30th anniversary. We will be celebrating it in December. And part of that celebration also means that the European JAYE conference is actually happening in Malta in December as well. So all the big JAYE people from the European side will be here coinciding with with our 30th. We’ve also got a presentation of some research we’ve been doing about the relevance of what we’re teaching in schools because we ran a pilot study for the Ministry of Education towards the end of last academic year just to see how the programs running impact, especially children who are about to make choices for subjects, the options, the options and so we ran a number of training sessions together with HSBC on this occasion whereby the students were taught a bit of relevance to the financial world and therefore seeing the impact it had on the choices of subjects they made thereafter. So they had a slightly more kind of informed set of decisions rather than shooting from the hip.
Monique: Did I see something in the press recently about you being credited?
Fiona: Yes this is big news and it’s a feed bugbed as one. There’s two sides to this ; the company program in particular is seriously hard work there’s a lot that goes on and it takes up the students’ time quite significantly. If you do Young Enterprise just you do it for the whole life, it’s just your life. We all felt that for the amount of work they put into it and it deserves some form of recognition and so it’s just being given accreditation as an MQF level three which is the equivalent of an O level of a sec exam to the pot and that is purely on on practical learning by doing experience. So they will be tracked, they will have milestones they have to reach at every step of that year or nine months of activities at the end of which they are given a formal certificate.
Monique: And this doesn’t mean your product has to fly off the shelves. It means thought everything through your all of your processes, you thought about it.
Fiona: Exactly. It means that you’ve hit the milestones every step of the way as Monique: You said something earlier about like primary kids ?
Fiona: Yes. Well this is the other nice or amazing difference between when I back in 1988, we only had company program and it was very much post secondary six form and that’s it.
As I came back on board two years ago, I couldn’t keep up with the acronyms flying across the room. This is CP, this is SUP that’s another, and I was like what the hell is going on. It took me a while to work out that basically, we now have programs that run for all levels of education.
So we have programs that are sort of my community based ideas for primary school children, whereby you’re kind of explaining to them how the world works, the role of the mayor in the village and just giving them a sense of awareness. I think that’s really what we’re aiming at.
Monique: So they know when their parents or their guardians, whatever, you know, complaining or struggling a bit they actually appreciate that it’s that thing they want isn’t that easy to get because there are all these other things that come out of the example.
Fiona: Yes, yes, yes and they actually get to put budgets together. They’re given a blank shop, and they need to come up with an idea, and what they would sell in that shop and how they would sell it.
Monique: I think I want to go back to school and do this.
Fiona: I’m telling you, they’re such fun, and they get all these little things, it’s all learning by doing so and it’s all these little activities. And so you get, for instance, sheets of burgers, sheets of paper and they sit there and they have to form a production line and they all have to cut out the burgers and then you have to cut out the bread and then somebody has to put the burger in the bread and of course, this takes time. So you have to work out how long it’s gonna take to make a burger. And then is it what you’re selling it for going to cover the cost of the workforce to make that burger and it’s all very practical, and of course it’s a squabbling that goes into it in the process and then they realize they’ve lost time to this squabbling and the team next door already got 10 more burgers than they do and so this is whole frenzy and it’s just lovely to see these faces light up and have bit of fun.
Monique: And achievement and pride and all of those things that you don’t necessarily have to be an academic.
Fiona: No. And I think to be honest, it gives them a real breath of fresh air from the usual boring day at school. Yeah. So they come out of the day, no fun, we had so much fun come next year
Fiona: And it’s all that excitement don’t you think? We accomplished Yay !
Monique: And how’s the feedback from parents ?
Fiona: We’ve always had positive feedback because the reality is that these kind of concepts and life skills don’t really come to the fore. We all used to think that students learn them somehow, but somehow they don’t, because they don’t fit into any particular curriculum. It doesn’t fall under maths and it doesn’t fall under biology and it doesn’t fall under anything else.
Monique: It doesn’t happen at home.
Fiona: It doesn’t happen because we are busy. And so I think from the parents point of view, it’s like, oh, wow, I never thought of doing that. Yes. You know, teaching them to take a lump of money and work out what needs to be paid by what and who pays who and why you’re paying who, by whom. And kind of giving it a sense of perspective. I think it teaches them the reality of life at the end of the day.
Monique: So even starting with the budgeting of their own pocket money or working chores around the house kind of thing. And then seeing Yeah, when they want that something this big fancy rather than this vanilla version. They actually understand what it means to get it and the process has been through to actually get on the shelf as well.
Fiona: And yes even I mean, in terms of especially if you’re setting up a production line, and you got a number of these kids who are the production line and they’re being paid, we pay the paper money, it’s physical money so they actually get it in hand and you see them scowling when it’s so little for all that blooming cutting of burgers they’ve just done and it’s like, well, that’s life. Yeah, it doesn’t fall off the shelf on its own.
Monique: How do you think you get a burger for exactly x cents?
Fiona: Exactly. Yeah. So there’s kind of the realization of how everything fits in
Monique: Just thinking it’s actually probably out of remit but the spear really good idea for young offenders as well. I don’t know if it’s already in that scenario, but just giving them something to focus on and that sort of earning pride and understanding.
Fiona: It’s actually interesting you said that because we’re actually running something at the moment. Okay, we can’t physically run it ourselves because they have limitations of what can be done. But we’ve been in the process of training people to be able to work with them to do something similar.
Monique: Fabulous !
Fiona: And I think to be fair, I wasn’t really sure where this is at the moment but I know there was talk of trying to at least give them to participate in say the trade fair where they could come in with their product at the same time as our students and sell it at the same time.
Monique: So atleast they’ve been participating in the program it’s sort of yes again something else to think about instead of coming out to the same rat race and whatever.
Fiona: Yes. And teaching them to be positive and to come up with creative ways of perhaps trying to break out of a situation.
Monique: Exactly using that energy in a different way.
Monique: Well it sounds like it’s all going in the right direction
Fiona: It is that there’s so much going on. It’s just, I get so excited about it, because there’s such a buzz and there’s so much to do. And there’s always a new angle to discover. And that’s what keeps it fresh. But ironically, so so very relevant. The one thing that amazes me is that 30 years on if you think, oh, Young enterprise must be going by the wayside. And it’s so isn’t because I think we’re almost more relevant now than we were in 1988. And Maltese were still a little bit sleepy as an island. And now it’s all happening and these skills are now very, very important.
Monique: And you’re saying JAYE is around the world? Europe, in America and everywhere ?
Fiona: That’s right. It originally actually started in the UK and then became European and then the state obviously took off as it does and a few years back it was decided that the whole thing should be one global framework which I think can really I forget the exact number, but it’s millions of students who are taking part and benefiting from this.
Monique: This is a really good thing. Even minus the certification which you have now but even minus that is a great thing to have on your CV applying for university applying it to your first job. So whatever that you you have this this participated you and done something.
Fiona: It shows a certain amount of leadership a certain amount of initiative. So I only see it as an opportunity for students to gain and I can’t think of many students who wouldn’t gain at least a little bit out of it.
Monique: Because you get to learn so many things that you just don’t have exposure to when you are out in the real world. Sometimes you don’t get exposure to design or distribution or marketing. So it’s fun.
Fiona: Exactly, and I think even even in terms of confidence and just you know, kind of learning how to behave in the working environment is really quite important and it’s really nice to see the transition that the students go through in those nine months. They’re starting six form, they’re still kind of fresh out of fifth form, they’ve had fabulous, wacky summer and they’re not quite yet tuned in. And then it all starts coming together and then over those nine months and all these presentations and all the teaching we do and all the fun activities they have. And you start seeing this change and even their demeanour becomes more business like and suddenly all the girls are in heels and the boys are in suits and it kind of progresses right to the final presentation at the end of May. And it’s quite nice to see that they are really taking on board everything we are giving them.
Monique: Again, all of that helps with going to an interview, being able to speak up yourself, being able to negotiate your first salary being able to rock up in the right outfit whatever it is.
Fiona: Yes and and write a CV and and put your best foot forward. Monique: Well I think you’re doing an amazing job. That’s me Monique
chambers talking to Fiona Captur this week talking about JAYE. Fiona: JAYE !
Monique: Thank you.