Youth unemployment may be a growing fear across the country, but Students at one college are learning the skills to buck the trend.

About 250 students from Abingdon and Witney College took part in a Dragon’s Den-style competition this week.

Pitching new ideas to a board of local businesspeople, it is hoped the Take The Plunge experience will give them a headstart.

Co-ordinator of the event, Jenny Craig, said: “The toughest issue facing students leaving education is the huge wave of young people that all land on the job market at the same time.

“Take the Plunge is about giving them a practical headstart to take control of their lives and ride ahead of the wave into a career they want.”

All the students that took part in the two-day event from Monday at the Kassam Stadium were studying vocational courses.

They are all taking part in the college’s Professional Futures programme, aimed at improving employability.

The competition was supported by 20 local and national employers, including Ricoh Europe, Pavilion Publishing, Zest Digital and Oxford Innovation Ltd.

Students were divided into teams and told to create, develop and finally pitch their product or service to the “dragons”.

They included Peter Wherritt, a director at Oxford RF Sensors, who said: “It was very worthwhile.

“Everyone got a lot out of it, including the people on the other side of the panel.

“Some of the ideas were pretty unfeasible but the fact they had thought them through and developed them was very very impressive.”

He was joined by fellow ‘Dragon’ judges Alison Wymbs from Wymbs HR Recruitment, CEO of Firestar Energy Ltd Andrew Guise and Jayne Finn from Qorus.

Six winning teams, whose ideas ranged from transparent kitchen equipment and minature make-up to a heated mattress cover for infants, were presented with £200.

Among them was 17-year-old Ashleigh Brant from Chilton, who said: “I really enjoyed meeting the employers as we learned so much.

“It really boosted my self-confidence so I will be much more prepared for real job interviews.”

Fellow student Mathew Boffin, 17, from Didcot added: “It brought enterprise skills to life. This will really build my CV to help me get a better job in the future.”