AFTER three years the Young Co-operatives has announced its 200th co-op shop in a school run by pupils.
The organisation, which encourages enterprise and fair trading skills and awareness among youngsters, helps secondary school children aged 13+ to run their own co-operative businesses selling fairly traded products in school.
Its 200th registered Young Co-operative has opened shop at the Egglescliffe School in the Tees Valley.
It is a major achievement for the organisation, which was set up through the Cleveland Co-operative Development Association in September 2002 and first piloted with 12 children at English Martyrs School & 6th Form College in Hartlepool, Tees Valley.
Kevin McGrother, National Co-ordinator of Young Co-operatives, said: "To reach our 200th Young Co-operative, nationwide, is a real landmark for the organisation.
"I am incredibly proud of all the schools and young people who have embraced Young Co-operatives with such enthusiasm. They have proved that it is possible to be both enterprising and completely committed to the principles of fair trade and co-operation."
"In September 2005 we launched Young Co-operatives Plus. This programme leads to a Certificate in Co-operative and Fair Trade Enterprise, accredited by Open College Network. This is very important in itself but it also helps develop links between the young co-operative and a local co-operative business.
"Young Co-operatives can now be found from Cornwall to Aberdeenshire and Northern Ireland. There is even one Welsh language young co-operative, but it all started here, in North East England and there are currently more than 30 young co-operatives in the North East."
From figures available from 28 young co-operatives, they had combined sales of almost £ 40,000 during the last school year. It is estimated that combined sales from all young co-operatives are well over £ 100,000 per year.
Young Co-operatives is now regarded by the UK Co-operative and Fairtrade Movements as their major contribution to the young enterprise agenda which is close to the heart of Government and all the RDAs.
Over the past two years, One NorthEast has been able to provide £ 14,000 in funding for enterprise-related activities and to help equip the organisation's Hartlepool base with computers and administrative help. Hartlepool Borough Council helped the organisation move to their offices earlier this summer.
One NorthEast Director Business and Industry, David Allison, said: "In a very short period of time, Young Co-operatives has grown from being an initiative involving just 12 young people in Hartlepool at the end of 2002 to a national organisation.
"With young co-operatives now trading in 200 schools and youth groups, involving more than 1,500 young people, the organisation is a genuine homegrown national success story.
"I am delighted that One NorthEast has been able to provide financial support to such a worthwhile and important project."
Through running a young co-operative pupils gain a wide variety of transferable skills. Some of these include: handling cash; serving customers; dealing with suppliers; keeping financial records; publicity and design; taking responsibility; accepting democratic decisions; and the practicalities of internationally fair-traded goods.