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Helping students think like entrepreneurs

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Everyone should have the opportunity to create something that can change the world! Future-work research indicates the skills and mindsets developed through STEM and entrepreneurial education will be essential for our students’ success in their future employment. There is an urgent need to address the gender divide in STEM and entrepreneurship in the workforce. Over the last five years working as a Primary School Technologies Teacher, my interest in the benefits of entrepreneurial education for all students, but particularly for girls, has grown immensely.

Research indicates that more employers are demanding enterprising skills among young employees so we as educators need to be ensuring opportunities to develop these skills. Transferable skills such as problem-solving, communication, teamwork, creativity, financial and digital literacy, critical thinking and presentation skills are not just for entrepreneurs; they are skills that are required in many jobs and they have been found to be a powerful predictor of long-term job success.

To address the gender divide, educators must invigorate the entrepreneurial mindset in our female students. This is achievable by:

1. Embracing design thinking: Make this problem-identification and problem-solving process a priority in future-focused classrooms by ensuring girls have the opportunity to come up with ideas, identify a good idea and turn that idea into action.

2. Creating opportunities for students to follow their interests and passions: Practical entrepreneurial experiences should be student-led initiatives either individually or as part of a small team, involve learning-by-doing and producing a tangible outcome. When girls are excited about a project they are motivated and self-directed to achieve their goals.

3. Providing the tools and the skills for problem-solving: Girls need to learn how to use a wide variety of STEM tools including 3D printing, digital 3D modelling, electronics, coding, robotics and design apps and websites for creating, collaborating and presenting their ideas. They can then choose the right tool to develop their entrepreneurial ideas and achieve their goals.

4. Encouraging risk-taking and flexible thinking: Practical experiences provide girls with a supportive environment, where mistakes are embraced and failure is learning tool, so that they gain the confidence and experience to turn their ideas into action in the real world.

5. Modelling entrepreneurial endeavours: As a female intrapreneur, I engage in entrepreneurial thinking from within an organisation so I share my design thinking with my students when I’m developing a project, program or presentation for students or staff. I let students inside my head and share with them how I not only recognise entrepreneurial opportunities but also create them in my workplace.

6. Making connections: Encourage girls to find their tribe of like-minded peers and mentors, to enhance their entrepreneurial pursuits. Role models make a huge impact on young people so when girls especially, work with female external partners in the design and/or delivery of entrepreneurial learning, girls develop confidence in themselves as entrepreneurs.

7. Celebrating success.

In my own experience as an entrepreneurship educator, my Year 4, 5 and 6 students have had great success with programs such as FYA $20 Boss, Young Change Agents and my own myDesign Solutions Program. Girls especially, are quick to express an initial interest and take advantage of continued entrepreneurial endeavours and their families are articulate in expressing their appreciation for such opportunities. I am excited that the Future Female Entrepreneurs Program will continue to invigorate the entrepreneurial mindset of my female students.

Mia Pinnington
DigiDesign - Technologies & Entrepreneurial Education Teacher - Years 4-6
2018 Peter Doherty Award – Excellence in STEM Education
2019 ACEL – Keith Tronc Award for Outstanding Teacher Leadership

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