Those of us who were fortunate to have had the opportunity to attend school will probably remember a key ‘aha’ moment.

Perhaps a conversation with a specific teacher, maybe a classroom experience that led to moment of clarity, or for a lucky few, an experience that shaped their life and personal journey.

With the support of Arts Queensland’s Artist in Residence funding, we (Tom and Adam) have set out to empower young people to positively impact the world through design-led creativity and entrepreneurial endeavours; in other words, we are trying to catalyse these ‘aha’ moments with our students.

This vision has led to the creation of the Jump Start project; a 12 week design thinking and social entrepreneurship program that empowers high school students to create prosperous futures. Students are challenged to embrace risk and failure, and confidently respond to community problems by creating social enterprises that create positive impact.

Throughout the project, students receive inspiring visits from industry, academia and university students. Whilst their newly learnt design strategy and enterprise skills would be useful in a traditional business sense, the project also focused on igniting student passion in areas where they could use their skills to define (and re-define) problems and respond by creating positive change for the wider community.

The first iteration of the project ran with a small group of Year 10 students towards the end of 2015, and our first cohort have shown promising signs of becoming future job creators, rather than job seekers (one of the participants recently published his second app on the Apple App Store on his school holidays!). We are currently gearing up for our second iteration, which will see the project run with Year 7 and 8 students enrolled in the College’s Design Excellence program.

A critical driver underpinning our development of the project was The Foundation for Young Australians Unlimited Potential report, which identified four key priorities to help prepare young people for the future:

  • The need to educate and equip young people with enterprising skills to thrive in a rapidly changing work environment to ensure a better connection between what schools teach and what the economy and society needs.
  • The need to invest in young Australian business and social entrepreneurship to increase opportunities for young people to become job creators rather than job seekers, and to foster a vibrant culture of innovation and entrepreneurship.
  • Turbocharge young people’s connection with the Asian region, building their ‘Asia literacy’ with meaningful relationships and exchanges throughout the school years and beyond.
  • The need for ‘a fire in the belly’, to be passionate about the things they believe in and want to see change.

Shortly after the Jump Start project commenced, the Department of Education and Training released Advancing Education. Among other things, the discussion paper highlighted the importance of ‘developing the Entrepreneurs of Tomorrow through opportunities to work with industry to shape their ideas and business plans’ and that ‘preparing young Queenslanders to engage in the new opportunities of a connected and global economy (as being) critical for their future‘.

It’s not just about new ideas, products and business models, innovation is also about creating a culture where we embrace risk, move quickly to back good ideas and learn from mistakes

Later on in the Jump Start project, Malcolm Turnbull released the Innovation and Science Agenda, arguing that innovation must be at the heart of the economy; ‘It’s not just about new ideas, products and business models; innovation is also about creating a culture where we embrace risk, move quickly to back good ideas and learn from mistakes.”

As a school, Pimpama State Secondary College (PSSC) continues to invest in “building students up with the skills and knowledge so they can thrive in the 21st Century.” As part of PSSC’s commitment to Innovation, Entrepreneurialism and Design Thinking, the College has invited Tom to continue his collaboration with the school in 2016.

In what we believe is an Australian first, and in the spirit of Advancing Education and the Innovation and Science Agenda, Tom will be embedded in the College as a design and business strategist with responsibility to continue to create and foster innovative learning opportunities which prepare students for future challenges. In part, this will be done through:

  • the continued development and delivery of the Jump Start Program in Junior Secondary
  • engagement and liaison between industry, tertiary education and the school to provide students with real world educational experiences
  • capacity building, training and support of College staff to explore Creativity, Design Thinking, Entrepreneurialism and Innovation.

We have an array of exciting endeavours waiting to unfold at PSSC this year with both local and international partners and are excited that they respond to the four key priorities of the FYA. Creatively teaching Design Strategy, Social Entrepreneurship and Innovation lie at the forefront of this work and empowering students to positively impact the world is absolute priority.

If you’re engaged in industry or academia, let’s talk about how you could become a partner or get involved in our initiatives. By participating, you have the power to dramatically shape and change a student’s direction, allowing them to reframe problems and respond with strong opportunities which benefit the wider community.