Business

Pushing students to think beyond the four walls of their classroom

Narelle Allen in the PwC Hive Academy
Tara Walsh

I COULDN'T have become an entrepreneur. I've never had the interest nor the motivation. That said, I wonder if I'd been introduced to entrepreneurship in my youth, would things have been different?

It's no longer a luxury though. Young people of today need to have not just an entrepreneurial mindset, but critically the confidence to create their own paths.

The world they're growing up in is vastly different from the one I did. There aren't jobs for life. It's estimated 65 per cent of four-year olds will end up in a job that doesn't even exist yet. If young people are to succeed, they'll need an entrepreneurial spirit as well as the ability to deliver on it.

The thing is though, the trend of those who do is decreasing. On one hand, the Small Business Administration claims that over 62 per cent of millennials have thought about doing it, and 72 per cent feel start-ups are a necessary economic force.

Yet on the other hand a study from the Economic Innovation Group say they're on track to be the least entrepreneurial generation in history. So what's holding them back and how can we support the next generation so they don't fear it?

For me, it comes back to how we teach, and how we measure success. Much of the focus in schools is on league tables and exam results to the detriment of broader skill sets. Inquiry-based approaches, developing resilience or key ‘soft' skills are deemed important, but not essential despite the fact that employers see these as increasingly more desirable than technical skills.

Teachers understand that students need to be innovative and enterprising but often feel constrained by the curriculum. That's where working with industry comes in.

I used to be a secondary teacher. I now work at a company called MakeMatic, working with companies like PwC to create engaging digital content to support teachers to develop professional skills and then help pupils develop, amongst other things, their creative skills.

Last week I had the privilege of being part of a judging panel for 80 pupils at the end of the Hive Academy, an intensive four-day technology programme run by PwC Northern Ireland. The academy is a free educational outreach initiative, delivering tech-based learning and resources to primary schools across the region.

What strikes me as interesting is that even though the front cover of the Hive Academy brochure says it's a technology programme, it's much more than that. It pushes students to think beyond the four walls of their classroom and consider their future.

For two years now the Academy, run by Narelle Allen, a former teacher and now education outreach officer, has taught more than 6,000 primary and secondary pupils how to code, pitch and market their ideas.

Embedded in the programme are skills like problem-solving, team-working, resilience and also developing the confidence to share their ideas. These are critical survival tools to live and thrive in a world which is changing faster than ever before. It also provides really useful learning materials for teachers to support their professional development which in turn will help future generations.

Right across the world young people are standing up and challenging the status quo. Handfuls of teenagers are coming together and starting movements to tackle things like climate change, gun laws and equality.

We applaud when people like Greta Thunberg stand up. But we need to do more to ensure this confidence to create change becomes the norm. Ultimately that's the challenge next generations will face in the future which we've created for them.

:: Tara Walsh is senior learning designer at Makematic (www.makematic.com), which provides professional learning for teachers

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