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How to empower students with next-gen entrepreneurial skills

David Hutson, Head of School at Dwight School Dubai shares five ways schools can empower students with an entrepreneurial skillset in an ever-changing world where innovation and problem-solving are key to success 

The role of education has evolved beyond the classroom setting and routine sharing of knowledge. Students today are entering a dynamic and innovative future, with new technologies shaping the workforce. To best equip our students for success, schools must recognise the importance of instilling an entrepreneurial mindset from an early age. Such a mindset trains students to critically solve problems and offer creative solutions as they tackle challenges they may encounter in their future careers. 

Let us explore five ways schools and teachers can empower their students with an entrepreneurial skillset: 

Integrating entrepreneurship into the curriculum 

By creatively weaving entrepreneurial concepts into their lesson plans, schools can effectively foster students’ interest in entrepreneurship across various subjects using a multidisciplinary approach. For example, presenting authentic business problems enables students to see firsthand how mathematical concepts and economic theories apply to the real world. Further, discussing renowned entrepreneurs from history and literature allows students to learn from their journeys, understand their motivations, and draw lessons from their successes and failures. These stories ignite students’ entrepreneurial spirit as well as impart valuable life lessons that extend beyond the business realm. 

The International Baccalaureate that we follow at our school has proven to be a successful framework for educating entrepreneurs. When teachers emphasise student-driven inquiry in lessons, it encourages students to work on projects of their own imagination, take risks, and to become problem-solvers through design thinking and hands-on learning. The IB fosters an entrepreneurial mindset through a combination of inquiry, design and service, sparking curiosity, creativity, collaboration, decision-making and more. 

Developing hard and soft skills 

Today’s graduates are entering a global world in which the rate of technological change is fast and furious, and the future of the workplace is yet unimagined. Consequently, the curriculum integration must also extend to the introduction of hard skills like graphics, design, architecture, engineering, filmmaking, programming, robotics and more. These technical skills enable students to push their innovations further and provide a variety of opportunities for them to upskill and market themselves for industry internships and freelancer opportunities. 

Empowerment happens when students can take ownership of their learning. Allowing them to develop their business ideas from conception to execution fosters a sense of responsibility and pride. Additionally, entrepreneurship seldom thrives in isolation. Encouraging students to navigate different viewpoints and work cohesively as a team prepares them for the collaborative nature of future workplaces. Teachers can also build an entrepreneurial mindset by reframing failures as valuable learning experiences to build resilience and tenacity. By encouraging students to see challenges as opportunities for growth rather than roadblocks, you instill a belief in their ability to persevere and overcome obstacles. 

Building incubator programmes and innovation hubs 

Establishing dedicated innovation hubs and incubators within the school premises provides an ideal environment for students to explore their ideas and work on projects. Incubator programmes are designed to nurture student innovation, entrepreneurship and leadership skills beyond the classroom.  

To develop their ideas for new businesses, non-profits or products, schools can develop interactive innovation hubs for students to utilise. By creating a designated area where they can freely brainstorm, collaborate and experiment, we send a clear message that innovation is valued, supported and encouraged within the school community. These hubs can be equipped with a range of machinery and tools, including a laser cutter and 3D printers. This allows students to rapidly develop and prototype, helping them to bring their ideas to life. 

Offering real world experience 

Mentorship plays a pivotal role in shaping future entrepreneurs. Schools can collaborate with local entrepreneurs to mentor and guide students on their projects and impart real-world insights and advice. This interaction bridges the gap between theory and practice, allowing students to envision themselves as successful entrepreneurs. Schools can also invite local business owners and start-up founders to share their journeys, challenges and triumphs for students to gain valuable insights into the various aspects of entrepreneurship.  

Similarly, partnering with local small businesses to offer internships or apprenticeship opportunities gives students a chance to immerse themselves in the day-to-day operations of a real entrepreneurial venture. These experiences expose students to the intricacies of business management and help them understand the various roles that contribute to a successful enterprise, and to the society. 

Organising entrepreneurial events and competitions 

Organising regular pitch events encourages students to refine their business concepts, develop persuasive communication skills, and showcase their entrepreneurial prowess. It also nurtures confidence and resilience in students as they receive feedback and learn from their peers and mentors. Simulated business competitions where students ‘launch’ their ventures teach these budding entrepreneurs key lessons in financial decision-making, logistics, marketing, sales and more, in a risk-free environment. 

Entrepreneurship is not solely about starting businesses; rather, it is a mindset that enables individuals to identify opportunities, solve problems creatively, and navigate challenges with resilience. While tomorrow’s career paths remain uncertain, we can prepare students to embrace whatever opportunities await by teaching them skills that go beyond academics or mastering the latest technology: brainstorming, designing, collaborating, problem-solving, and innovating. These entrepreneurial skills, coupled with flexibility, perseverance, resilience and resourcefulness will drive success in the competitive marketplace and in life.  

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