Head of Commerce at Caulfield Grammar School’s Wheelers Hill Campus, Szuen Lim, launched their inaugural six-week entrepreneurship program for Year 9s in early 2022. It brought students together in diverse groups to develop start-up proposals, and culminated in a pitch event with a panel of industry experts. The school’s new program draws on UpSchool’s professional development course, which Szuen had completed just a few months previously, in late 2021.

Preparing to thrive, whatever happens

Caulfield Grammar has a ‘Mind for life’ School Strategy guided by the school’s core values of pursuing excellence, inspiring creativity, thriving together, embracing diversity and living wholeheartedly, which are all about preparing students for an uncertain future of work.

“The landscape is constantly changing, and today’s content knowledge may no longer be relevant when students leave school. Entrepreneurship education aligns nicely with our approach to preparing students for an unwritten future, because it teaches the skills to thrive in unpredictable environments.”

The school’s entrepreneurship program encouraged students to experiment, and to accept failure as part of the learning process.

“They learn that you’re not going to get it right the first time, we all have set-backs and we can learn from them. They collaboratively refined their original ideas and used research to problem-solve, through activities like talking to potential customers. It was a very ‘real’ way to learn. Our students had been craving that kind of opportunity.”

Students were teamed with peers they didn’t normally work with, to demonstrate the value of diverse perspectives.

“UpSchool emphasised the importance of diversity, and we learned that some investors won’t invest in a start-up that doesn’t have a diverse team. We passed that onto our students and discussed the importance of intentionally embracing diversity. Students could see the value of multiple perspectives, and that the bigger range of opinions you have, the greater your chance of discovering a new idea.”

The benefits of UpSchool

Szuen had worked in finance and completed a Commerce/Law degree, but was looking for guidance on introducing entrepreneurship into the classroom. UpSchool showed her how.

“The facilitators were great. We had a practising teacher who offered activities we could implement straight away in our classrooms, and we had an entrepreneurial expert who could answer technical questions and relate our learning to the ‘real world’. It was a good balance.”

The ‘hands-on’ nature of UpSchool helped Szuen empathise with her students.

“We had to go through the entrepreneurship process ourselves, for example by hopping on trams and talking to people in the city as part of customer discovery. I discovered sometimes people won’t stop and talk to you no matter how hard you try! It meant I could relate that experience back to my students and tell them what to expect. I found that immersive learning experience very useful.”

Access to the Wade Institute’s network of entrepreneurs helped Szuen connect her students with industry experts.

“When I was looking for panel participants for our PitchBright 1.0 presentations at the end of the program, Wade connected me with two industry experts. They both came into the school for two hours on a weekday morning to listen to our Year 9 students’ ideas, providing direct feedback in a nurturing way. Their ’real-world’ experience and skills were invaluable, and beyond what we as teachers could offer in that context.”

This was Caulfield Grammar School’s inaugural Year 9 entrepreneurship program, and it looks set to grow into the future.

“We’re hoping to implement the program school-wide and to support students who wish to take their ideas further. For example, I’m still working with a group who have an idea for an employment platform for young people. They had the opportunity to present at SEEK’s headquarters and, while the feedback was that the idea was not commercially viable, the group is still keen to pursue it because they want to continue learning about the entrepreneurial process. They already understand it’s not always about making profit or getting things perfect and they’re learning resilience.”

“We’d like to expand that opportunity to more students by leveraging the school’s alumni network and Wade Institute’s industry connections.”