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Massey University business student Meg Kerry with Business Boot Camp mentor Dr Jeff Stangl.

Business Boot Camp kicks off again

Commerce and economics students from all over the North Island are giving up a week of their school holidays to immerse themselves in the world of business.

Seventy students from 33 secondary schools – from Kerikeri to Palmerston North – have signed up for Massey University’s annual Business Boot Camp. This year the camp was over-subscribed, with all places on the programme filled within a week of registrations opening.

“Word of mouth about the first boot camp last year has really spread through the teacher network,” says co-organiser Dr Jeff Stangl from the Massey Business School. “Some teachers had tough decisions to make as we usually only take two students per school.”

Business Boot Camp is the brainchild of Dr Stangl, who lectures in finance, and his wife Dr Loren Stangl, who lectures in marketing. It’s aim is to expose students to all aspects of business so they can make more informed decisions about their future studies and careers.

“We want to really open up their eyes to what they can do when they leave school, possibly to opportunities they haven’t considered,” Dr Stangl says. “Most of these young people will have multiple careers and we want them to go out there knowing that a career in business can mean many different things.

“It’s about exposing them to a whole variety of ideas to help them find their own way, to inspire them to become the next generation of business leaders.”

Some of New Zealand’s biggest organisations are opening their doors to the students, including the NZX, Microsoft, Air New Zealand and GridAKL, the new technology and innovation precinct at Wynyard Quarter.

“We’ll teach them fundamental business concepts and those all-important soft skills – like critical and entrepreneurial thinking – that employers are looking for,” Dr Stangl says. “But the most important thing will be connecting them with real people in business so they can experience the whole ecosystem that is out there.”

Former Westlake Girls’ High School and current Massey University student Meg Kerry, who attended Business Boot Camp in 2014, says the experience was transformational.

“It changed my whole university life,” she says. “I wasn’t even thinking about going to Massey, but after boot camp I had made so many important relationships with people at Massey that I knew I wanted to study here.”

Those who attended last year’s Business Boot Camp are still in contact through a Facebook page set up by the students and at least one-third of the group are now in their first year of business studies at Massey.

“I now have this amazing network of friends in my first year at university and we’re being mentored by Jeff [Stangl] as well. It means I’ve always got people to talk to who are in the same boat as me¬ – and it's all because of boot camp.”

Ms Kerry says the experience gave her the confidence to network and pursue opportunities. She also learned how business concepts can be applied in a range of ways in the real world.

“It was so different to learning from a textbook. At school it can seem like it’s something you learn for a test, but at boot camp you learn to apply those concepts. We had the opportunity to ask real businesses how they they’ve used the strategies we learnt about and you can see, wow, that all these theories do matter.”

Ms Kerry says the group’s visit to the NZX showed her how economic theory translated into the day-to-day running of a stock market, while the personal stories of successful business people brought insights of a different kind.

“There was one speaker who gave her perspective as a female manager that really sticks in my mind because that’s how I want to be,” she says. “I want to be confident and motivated and not let stereotypes get in the way of being a successful manager.”

This year, along with another 30 Massey business students, she will be on-hand to help run Business Boot Camp and mentor the participating high school students.

“I’ll be telling them that boot camp is just the start – they need to build on the relationships they make during the week as those networks could be important for the rest of their careers.”

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