Every school talks about workforce readiness. What they’re doing to prepare students for the real world. The innovative tools and technologies they’re using to prep the next generation for the ever changing future-of-work landscape.
There is a lot of energy focused on the next tech skills students need or the next tech tools we can use to enhance teaching and learning. But are these tech tools and tech skills doing enough for students? When students graduate high school, are they really prepared to take on life (and career) challenges?
Successful entrepreneurship education extends beyond tools and technologies and offers a relevant work-based learning environment. The goal is to create a learn-by-doing experience, encourage student agency to pursue a passion, and build transferable skills across professions. Most importantly, it is bringing this learning in and out of high schools and exposes students to career opportunities at a young age.
From hospitality to healthcare and every industry in between, the more context students have to relate what they are learning to the opportunities that lie ahead, the better they fare when they enter the real world. So, how can we extend classroom experiences beyond tools and tech to empower students for lifelong careers after graduation?
How Entrepreneurship Education Prepares Students for the Real World
The problem isn’t that students don’t want to take an active role in their education experiences — it’s that many programs simply don’t encourage this. Today’s students need to be challenged and allowed to learn from failure in order to thrive in today’s (and tomorrow’s) workforce. Providing students with learning experiences that empower them to explore passions and interests will equip students with a toolkit of skills that will ensure their ability to adapt to whatever the world throws their way. The modern definition of entrepreneurship outlines the exact type of situation that provides these challenges. Entrepreneurship: Creating a venture that solves a problem, with unique value, in conditions of extreme uncertainty and with limited resources. (Read more from Eric Ries, Entrepreneur and author of The Lean Startup.)
According to Forbes writer Brandon Busteed, “In a world that has increasingly emphasized the importance of education, it’s a catastrophic failure not to celebrate the educational value of work and the ways in which school-based learning can and should enhance work opportunity and performance. These are not mutually exclusive values or functions; they reinforce each other.” In other words, students learn better when they’re able to apply a real-world work component to learning experiences. But it doesn’t happen enough.
Unfortunately, only five percent of U.S. adults say recent high school grads are “very prepared” for success in the workforce and only 13 percent feel the same way about recent college grads.
By introducing entrepreneurship education in high school (and earlier), we can prepare students with the skills needed to land successful careers in their chosen fields, and/or create jobs that don’t even exist yet. Teamwork, problem solving, critical thinking, and public speaking are skills that translate across professions.
Why Technology Isn’t Enough
We can’t predict the future, so we can’t predict what technology might look like 20, 10, even five years from now. This demands that we teach students the confidence and discipline required to adapt on the fly to the changing demands their career will inevitably present.
Of course, technology will always play a role in students’ careers, so their ability to use and apply today’s tools and technologies is absolutely critical. In fact, 80% want to work with cutting-edge technology in future careers, according to one ‘Gen Z’ study.
With the acceleration of technology, students are usually ahead of the game when compared to adults/teachers as young people have grown up with tech and a focus on tech literacy (much different from generations past). As educators, it's important to encourage students and take advantage of the opportunity this presents and explore existing and up-and-coming tools without holding students back.
Students will not land that first job with proficiency in the latest technology skills alone. Employers are increasingly focused on the soft skills needed to problem solve using technology, the ability to adapt, persevere, and work in teams making connections. The most successful entrepreneurship teachers and students have a growth mindset and the ability to pivot as needed to meet the dynamic requirements of careers in the future.
How Uncharted Learning Prepares Students for the Workforce
Learning inside and outside of the classroom
By connecting each entrepreneurship classroom to community with industry leaders, mentors, coaches, directors, and advisors, students develop a real and honest connection with successful professionals to help them build awareness of and gain exposure to the 'real world'. Students make authentic connections to what they are learning, and how they can use this learning in the future.
Bringing this entrepreneurial ecosystem into the classroom provides access to students. Each school utilizing a team teaching model to complement the lead teacher. This consists of local, industry-connected volunteers with discreet roles as coaches and mentors to support the learning. Students are best prepared for future careers when they are provided the opportunity to understand the many career opportunities that await them after graduation.
While bringing expertise into the classroom provides access to professionals, allowing and pushing learning outside the classroom provides real-life context. As students embrace the authentic journey of an entrepreneur, learning moves outside the classroom to gain input from customers, test market response, and critical feedback on what they are creating.
At Uncharted Learning, we don’t wait for the next publication on curriculum to hit the shelves. We enhance and adapt our curriculum with current best practices, collaborating with industry leaders and advisors to bring the best material to life. With every lesson plan we create, we ask ourselves: How might students apply what we teach them now to their future careers?
The INCubatoredu entrepreneurship curriculum provides high school students a robust range of practical skills they can apply to any career, including:
- Strong communication skills (speaking, writing, listening)
- Problem-solving skills
- Ability to work in teams
- Ability to work through conflict and deal with ambiguous situations
- How to establish connections in a demanding workforce
- How to apply marketing, finance, sales, analytics, web design, and other foundational business concepts
The Role Parents Play in Student Readiness
Educators are all about student preparedness—and, as we reflect on the last decade of changes in education, this extends beyond test scores. But parents play an important role in preparing students for the real world, too.
The first and most important step parents can take to better prepare students for future careers is value a growth mindset—and adopt one themselves! We hear from educators about positive results when parents are part of the equation with time spent to engage about what their students are learning, what problem they’re trying to solve, and what failures they’ve experienced - and learned from!
With all the pressure students face to achieve good grades and meet certain test standards, those hard-to-measure “soft skills” are often forgotten or overlooked. We encourage the development of soft skills just as much as hard skills—in the classroom and outside.
Take note of how your child faces challenges at home, how they drive their own learning outside of the classroom, what they’re being told to do or not to do, and how they deal with failure. As parents, we never want to see our children fail, but research shows that learning how to fail leads to success. Does your student have the opportunity to fail at home?
We’re All Responsible for Student Career Readiness
When it comes to career readiness, we are challenged to do more for students. That means enhancing the classroom experience beyond just new tools and technologies. It means rallying administrators, parents, and teachers around students to offer real-world learning opportunities that allow students to fail, and encouraging a growth mindset. Long term success will be about the agility and willingness to continue to grow in a dynamic work environment of the 21st century.
See how one school district transformed the student experience through entrepreneurship in this case study.