In a move set to make the program more accessible nationwide, round two of Cairns’ Emerging Entrepreneurs program has coincided with the announcement that James Cook University will come on board as a key strategic partner.
theSPACE is currently working with other regional centres to extend the reach of their youth-focused entrepreneur program, and JCU’s sponsorship will prove vital in supporting the rollout.
This expansion will include not only programs facilitated directly by theSPACE in Cairns and surrounding regions, but also the digital scaling out of the program, which will make it accessible to students right across Australia. Currently under development, the interactive digital platform is scheduled to launch in time for the first term of 2016.
It’s encouraging to see a university such as JCU participate in the disruption of its own industry. Largely because, while it is now widely accepted that most of the jobs that will exist ten years from now have not yet been invented, our traditional education system does not equip students with the appropriate technical and entrepreneurial skills to thrive in an evolving work landscape.
JCU is already a partner in the Tropical North Learning Academy (TNLA), through which it has joined forces with a local high school and primary school on a mission to “engage young minds to meet the challenges of the future by offering unique, world-class education programs from the early years to university and beyond”.
TNLA Smithfield State High School is the first school to adopt the Emerging Entrepreneurs program, following the pilot earlier this year. Smithfield’s principal, Barry Courtney, has been proactive in providing his students experiences outside the standard school curriculum.
“As a school, we have been looking at innovative learning experiences for our students, so the Emerging Entrepreneurs program was of immediate interest to us,” Courtney said. “We are in the business of developing 21st–century–literate citizens. We have had community consultation on the skill sets needed, and critical thinking and entrepreneurialism were part of the skills set identified.”
The response from participants has been positive overall. Andrea Jackson, a business advisor with The Australian Industry Group’s Entrepreneurs’ Program, enrolled her daughter Eilish in the Emerging Entrepreneurs pilot as her birthday present. Eilish already had an idea she wanted to work on, but Andrea says that “there just aren’t any other resources around to support a 15-year-old who’s keen to start a business.”
Eilish had previously tried to educate herself on the subject through books, but found them to be either too boring or too difficult. She found that Emerging Entrepreneurs boosted her confidence and taught her skills applicable to both her current business idea and to future projects. Since finishing the program, Eilish has continued to network in her target industry and has visited a factory to investigate options.
“We are fully committed to developing world class graduates who have the skills to get jobs and create the ideas needed in the future world of work,” Courtney said. “Our partnership with theSPACE is integral to this and we look forward to furthering our partnership and assisting other schools to get involved also.”
Bill Gates has said that business is going to change more in the next ten years than it has in the last 50. If he’s right, we should be teaching our students not only IT and business skills that are applicable today and in the immediate future, but general principles of adaptability and entrepreneurship to allow them to keep up as change becomes the norm.
theSPACE’s Damian Zammit hopes making the Emerging Entrepreneurs program accessible nationwide will help foster this entrepreneurial mindset.
“Because the world is changing so quickly, we need the Emerging Entrepreneurs program to provide students with the critical tools to create a job, rather than find one,” Zammit said. “They must learn to test ideas quickly to reduce risk and move quickly to a successful product/market fit.
“This program means that when they commence university education, they can adapt all of their newly adopted skills immediately. Everyone wins: the economy, the students and the universities.”
The startup scene in Australia is still developing, and recent funding announcements such as the Advance Queensland package are an indicator that our government sees the value in placing it on the national agenda. Harnessing the energy and tech-savviness of our youth by introducing them to entrepreneurship at a much earlier stage could have a very positive impact on our startup scene, and in turn our economy, in the coming years.
Schools, teachers and students can register their interest at www.emergingentrepreneurs.com.au.