A 2017 report authorised by Dell Technologies found that 85 percent of jobs we’ll see by 2030 have not yet been invented. While this figure is subject to discussion, the point is that economies today are changing faster than previous few generations could have ever anticipated.
Our children will need new ways of imagining work in this digital age of disruption. They will need to create their own opportunities to thrive in the growing gig economy. To succeed, they will need to fail first.
That’s where enterprise education comes in. It’s not just about teaching kids how to be entrepreneurs; it’s about the skills they develop as they build an enterprise, such as financial literacy, commercial awareness, logistics, marketing, product design, not to mention collaboration with interdisciplinary partners and stakeholders.
Problem-solving abilities are presumed, and continuous innovation is needed to create value. Throughout the learning process, failure is encouraged, which is how students learn perseverance, grit, and gain confidence.
To see excellent enterprise education in practice, look to the STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Technology) initiative at Dulwich College Beijing (DCB), a British international school up to Year 13 with strong ties to the 400-year-old founding College in London. This teaching initiative has just been shortlisted for the 2019 International School Awards for Creativity in Learning.
For enterprise education, DCB has a special hub called SE21, meaning STEAM plus enterprise skills and environmental sustainability for the 21st century. This new facility is dedicated to design technology, 3D printing, phase one robotics, coding, CAD/CAM, graphic design, film, augmented and virtual reality. It provides state-of-the-art equipment for students to tinker with product design and make things with their own hands.
But beyond technology, SE21 provides an environment to ideate, develop a business plan and pitch the idea to investors. It’s a place where students are not afraid to try things out again and again, stretching their creativity, empathy, and collaboration and communication skills. DCB offers a variety of opportunities within and outside the curriculum that focus on experiential and project-based learning with real-world consequences.
One such real-world application is the Enterprise Fair. This year, 17 student start-ups showcased their products alongside 25 established Beijing businesses. From logistics to finding sponsors to promoting the event – students organised it all. There were no textbooks for this. The students learned by doing, making mistakes and adapting.
But the learning process didn’t stop there. After the event, students reflected on their experience to modify their product design and marketing strategies to improve their returns on the microloans they had taken out to fund the enterprise.
There are more real-world entrepreneurial opportunities at DCB. For example, not long ago, students took over a campus store that had previously been run by the parent association. Students were responsible for staffing, inventory management and sales, and are realising that shop keeping isn’t as easy as it looks. They even added new merchandise to the store, including student-designed personalised key chains and DYI 3D puzzles, as well more healthy snacks, putting sustainability and healthy eating above profit.
On top of this, two students are launching a consignment store to sell used clothing, and with their detailed business plan, have even received a generous award, the Pioneering Spirit Grant, for the project. This grant is given by Dulwich College International, a family of 10 international schools across Asia of which Dulwich College Beijing is a part. These students had seen a gap in the community sustainability initiatives and decided to act on it.
The real-world challenges demanded by this enterprise education cultivate a mindset. The skills and attitude gained will help young people invent their own opportunities in today’s disruptive economies rather than follow well-trodden but fading career paths.
After all, it’s not about aiming for the summit; it’s about patiently climbing the mountain. Is your child fit for the hike?