News & Analysis

River City Labs launches high school Entrepreneurs Club in Brisbane

- May 20, 2016 4 MIN READ
Entrepreneur Club

Brisbane coworking community River City Labs has partnered with St Paul’s School to launch Australia’s first school Entrepreneurs Club, looking to help students, staff, and parents transform their startup ideas into businesses.

The current rate of change in the economy is enormous and continues to accelerate through the development and transformation of technology. In order to grow successful businesses and succeed in the entrepreneurial landscape people need to think big and global, and that thinking and state of mind starts from school.

St Paul’s School realised that schools and teachers across the nation need to adapt their thinking and help prepare young people for the world where the change of pace is faster than any other time in history.

“To thrive in that new landscape students need to be equipped with resilience, agility, an innovative mindset and entrepreneurial spirit that will help them create their own employment opportunities,” said St Paul’s Headmaster Dr Paul Browning.

The entrepreneur club is a new school program that will run for 16 weeks to teach students skills and knowledge in entrepreneurship and how to execute the lean startup model. Students will undertake fortnightly face-to-face sessions after school where they will gain experience in putting the lean startup model into action.

Browning said there will be a number of coaches in residence for the 90 minute Club sessions that will support students in developing their entrepreneurial skills and product or service designs.

Students will also learn how to best identify customers, refine their products, seeks and receive feedback, monetise their ideas, write a business plan and craft and deliver a pitch to potential investors.

It aims to help grow an entrepreneurial mindset, innovative spirit and build resilience,” said Browning.

Participants in the program will also be given the opportunity to pitch their startup ideas to a panel of venture capitalists. These investors have the potential to enhance the Club and its learnings outside the school and take in-school ideas into the real world.

Browning believes this program is a ‘third pathway’ that fills the gap between students finishing high school and going into university or tafe. Students need to be equipped to potentially create their own jobs and their own futures.

“Our research shows that up to 50 percent of today’s jobs will likely become obsolete in the next 15 years replaced by artificial intelligence and robotics, even jobs like doctors, lawyers and accountants.  This has enormous potential for students though, who have incredible capacity to harness the opportunities new technologies present, designing their own jobs to create their own futures,” he said.

St Paul’s School has previously rolled out five unique Learning Realms to transform the student’s learning landscape. These Learning Realms include creativity, design thinking, entrepreneurialism, global sustainability and inquiry and have been incorporated into the School’s curriculum.

“These realms aim to help students think differently and take great ownership of their learning. These Learning Realms will equip students with the skills and dispositions they need to be successful in the new world,” explained Browning.

Schools around Australia are starting to raise the question of how to get more kids studying STEM skills and learning the risks and rewards of entrepreneurship. The problem is there needs to be more students participating in these areas of study to address the demand for technology based jobs not only in Australia but around the world.

These issues are being addressed by a number of community-driven initiatives, such as Code Club Australia and Melbourne startup Code the Future, which launched an ambitious plan in January to get 10,000 Australian school students coding by the end of the year. This plan coincided with an endorsement of the new Digital Technologies subject that is to be introduced into the Australian Curriculum this year.

The importance of STEM education was also picked up by the Queensland Government late last year, which announced an Advancing Education initiative through which the study of coding and robotics would be made compulsory for all students from kindergarten to year 10.

Schools not only need to teach entrepreneurship, technology and coding, but they also have a responsibility to address the gender imbalance in these subjects. Schools need to encourage a greater level of female participation in STEM. Unfortunately there still is a significant drop off for young women who study STEM to then go on and choose careers paths based on these skill sets.

Since 2001, the number of women enrolling in an IT degree has fallen from around one in four to one in 10, with women making up just 28 percent of the IT workforce.

Immediate past president of the Australian Computer Society Brenda Aynsley has said Australia has a “chronic shortage” of women graduating with computer science or coding skills, and that it is critical for the sector to capture the interest of girls as early as possible by teaching them coding and computational thinking in every school.

The launch of the Entrepreneur Club is yet another incentive and mission to educate the business owners and entrepreneurs of tomorrow. The Club is an extension of the School’s previous learning pathways to prepare students for a world where the employment landscape revolves around technology and innovative ideas. The School is excited to give its student community the opportunity to start thinking big and turn their ideas into a reality.

Browning said, “In the true sense of a startup, the Club is a prototype. Our vision is to embed it into the curriculum giving students the choice of three learning pathways.”

Image: Entrepreneur Club at St Paul’s School. Source: Supplied.