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There’s more to Thurrock than lorries and Lakeside – so say its young people who are competing in the Next Top Boss competition to put one of London’s lesser known but key neighbours on the map.

This week saw teams of 17-19 year olds compete in “Destination Thurrock” - a challenge to design ads and slogans to showcase Thurrock’s heritage and its growing economy. Teams have been out and about with cameras and camcorders capturing local landmarks and events including local festival T-Fest, in a race to come up with the best idea for selling Thurrock.

It is the second of four challenges which form the award-winning, Apprentice-style competition – Next Top Boss – which is being run locally to find the next generation of business leaders. The contest, which has its own much-visited Facebook page, has already raised awareness of Thurrock -  just half an hour from the City and part of the eastward expansion of London in the build-up to the Olympic Games.

“We’ve already had some fantastic ideas for how to promote Thurrock and help people see what a key part of the south-east it is,” said Juliet Sychrava, director of Thurrock Thames Gateway Development Corporation.

“South Essex is well known for being entrepreneurial and dynamic – and our young people are showing they really can be the next generation of business leaders.”

The competition, which has been created and organised by Thurrock Thames Gateway Development Corporation with Thurrock Council and over 30 Thurrock based organisations,  aims to get young people on the career ladder, while promoting local business and the area.

Thousands of pounds worth of prizes, given by local organisations, are up for grabs, from jobs and work placements with top businesses to business courses, the most up to date new technologies including iPads, Mac-minis, Blackberrys, digital cameras, laptops and iPhones, and a fantastic range of work outfits.

Thurrock businesses from Lakeside to Procter & Gamble are also throwing open their doors to show off career opportunities and take young people behind the scenes.

On Monday, one of the groups, New Vinyl, which met at the new Thurrock Learning Shop in Grays – which is being used as a base for Next Top Boss – sang the praises of the competition.

“This has been really good, it’s a great experience for us and offers brilliant prizes,” said Ife Tokan, a student at Havering College. “I’m really enjoying the opportunity to learn about business and I’ve already had my eyes opened to so many new things.”

Chloe Anderson from South Ockendon explained: “When I was at primary school we used to visit places like Belhus Chase and Arena Essex but I admit I’d forgotten about them. Now I’m seeing them in a new light as part of the things that Thurrock has got to offer people who come here.”

Recruitment is now taking place for more teams to start the competition this autumn.  To take part please visit www.nexttopboss.co.uk or call 01708 899388