Australia has a vastly changing technological landscape and because of this challenges are placed on teachers to support young people in creating their own futures. In 2015 the Foundation for Young Australians released a report that outlined an average young person will have up to five career changes and 17 jobs in their lifetime, and universities are being called on to help prepare their students for the cultural shift towards innovation and entrepreneurship.
The University of Technology Sydney (UTS) is heading into 2016 with a strong focus on this space, with its pre-incubator program Hatchery looking to support students from diverse disciplines and backgrounds in learning the foundations of innovation and entrepreneurship. The program looks to give students the scaffolding to enter the startup world by combining both academic and industry input, embedding the ethos of collaboration and cross-pollination.
“The program is centred on creating entrepreneurs not companies,” said Tida Tippapart, UTS Hatchery community manager. “Entrepreneurship is much more than just a subject that a student will take at university; it’s a way of thinking that will ultimately shape how a student envisages their future career path.”
Launched in 2015 and now in its third iteration, Hatchery is a semester-long program that was first conceived as a testing space to experiment on how to teach innovation and entrepreneurships to students from diverse backgrounds.
Students from different cohorts including law, health, science, nanotechnology, business, engineering and design are encouraged to apply to the program, with Tippapart explaining that an ideal candidate is someone who values collaboration with an eagerness to learn.
“A common theme that we have seen in the students we accept into the program is the hunger to work with other students with diverse skills and perspectives of the world. Students don’t want to work in isolation, they want to be challenged and they consistently highlight the need for other voices and skills sets to execute projects. I think this where true innovation lies— in the ability to work cohesively and to be challenged and constantly ask ‘what if’,” said Tippapart.
UTS has a wide body of academics and lecturers who also feed into the program. Along with teachers, the program partners with industry where leaders from various sectors give students first hand knowledge, insights and advice. Industry engagement has been essential to the program with mentors from Commonwealth Bank, Microsoft and ABC supporting students and helping them validate and prototype ideas.
For example, to address digital literacy skills for young people, Hatchery hosts a masterclass with Coder Factory each semester to help teach basic coding skills. A representative from Microsoft has previously come onboard to teach coding and host a masterclass on how to pitch to investors.
“Hatchery stands out from other initiatives because of its academic and industry input into the program,” said Tippapart. “The program looks to affect a much broader cultural shift in the education space and to create future entrepreneurs not just companies.”
Startups launched through the program so far include MyInterview, WineStash, Sondar, and ConstructionCloud.
With the Federal Government shining a light on the responsibilities of universities to collaborate with industry, commercialise research, and teach more students about entrepreneurship in last December’s innovation statement, a growing number are setting up pre-incubators and accelerators that focus on encouraging and supporting innovative ideas.
The University of New South Wales is arguably one of the best universities working in this space through, in particular, its UNSW Innovations organisation and the Michael Crouch Innovation Centre, which are supporting current students and alumni to launch new startups. Meanwhile, the Melbourne Accelerator Program at Melbourne University was named the eighth best university business accelerator in the world for 2015.
For UTS, the focus on entrepreneurship will only grow. The university last year conducted a survey asking students and recent graduates about their career paths and journeys; 40 percent of respondents had either started a business or thought of a career in the startup or entrepreneurial realm. Since the survey, Hatchery has seen a significant increase in the number of students applying for the program and have nearly tripled their intake of students.
Tippapart said, “UTS has prided itself for many years for its ability to produce industry-ready graduates. Now, it is not only providing for the jobs that currently exist, but also equipping students with the skills they need to adapt to a rapidly changing work environment.”
Image: Tida Tippapart. Source: Supplied.