URGENT message to 200 heads of companies in the York area - help us to create York's first college dedicated to producing the region's best business brains for the future.

That is the plea which has gone out in a letter from Burnholme Community College today to 200 business bosses in and around the city.

Burnholme wants the city's movers and shakers to raise £50,000 by October 15 to give it a chance of being accepted as York's first specialist college for business and enterprise.

The new status will build on the 11-16 year college's already strong links through work experience, special projects in technology and mathematics and visits to industry

John Fletcher, Burnholme Community College's business links co-ordinator, said: "We don't plan to become a secretarial college. We will still have a wide range of GCSE subjects, but there will be a big emphasis on business skills, with greater accent on business activities., business GCSE, more focus on IT and mathematics skills."

If the cash can be independently raised then the Government will consider giving the college a one-off capital payment of £100,000, plus £60,000 a year over the next four years.

Mr Fletcher, who with Tony Gavin, the acting head teacher, is formulating the bid along with a four-year development plan, said the £100,000 would help to build a conference centre "which can be used by any business which has either sponsored it or which wants to be involved.

"Firms helping us will be in a better position to cream off any of our top business studies students that we might have coming through. We hope to produce business-minded young people . What more could any business ask for?"

The bid comes as the number of businesses in York, along with their needs for skills, are expected to mushroom over the next few years on new estates.

Already the £12 million office building first phase on 40 acres at Monks Cross North, Huntington, is complete, with a second £9 million phase now under way. Over the next ten years 5,000 people will be working there, say the economic forecasters.

A new business district and conference centre as well as 3,000 homes are proposed for York Central, otherwise known as the "teardrop" site, behind the National Railway Museum - an area almost as big again as the entire centre of the city within the bar walls

The concept of a secondary school which can directly feed the city's growing needs for business skills by offering enterprise as a subject of excellence beyond the normal curriculum has already received the help and backing of Hugh Bayley, York's MP,

Others promoting the college's cause include Paul Murphy, the new executive director of the North Yorkshire Business and Education Partnership, and Norman Whyte, chief executive of the York, Selby and Malton Business Advice Centre.

If your venture wants to invest in the future of the city's business brains, then phone Mr Fletcher on 01904 423881.

Updated: 09:01 Tuesday, May 20, 2003