The economic fallout of COVID-19 has demonstrated the importance of entrepreneurial skills, the founder of an alternate learning school program says.
Jenny Perks is the co-founder and director of the Upstart Challenge, a program open to Ballarat secondary schools to teach students entrepreneurial skills.
The program takes students through a journey of coming up with a product idea that is a solution to a problem in their lives and then working with a team to pitch the idea and develop the product.
Ms Perks said the coronavirus pandemic had demonstrated the fragility of the economy and the need for problem solving skills and creative solutions.
"Having those skills of being able to solve problems, being able to use creativity to see solutions and being able to communicate with impact what your ideas are, there has never been a better time for that," she said.
"The entrepreneurial process instills a sense of resilience. It is a very intuitive process, you have an idea, you test it out, if it works you go forward, if it doesn't you try something new.
"We see students over the years realise that is normal life, so their ability to bounce back from setbacks builds over time."
Registrations for Ballarat schools to join the Upstart Challenge are now open.
The program's resources have been adapted in response to COVID-19 to allow teachers access to deliver more aspects of the program through the classroom rather than externally through Upstart staff.
We see students over the years realise that is normal life, so their ability to bounce back from setbacks builds over time.Jenny Perks, Upstart Challenge
Funding from the Buninyong and District Community Bank has allowed the program to run in more schools, with a number of sponsorships available that subsidise the program cost.
Students in participating classes will go through the process of developing, pitching and creating a prototype of their product/ business idea in class.
Each class will then submit the top three ideas to an external Upstart judging panel. Selected student groups will participate in a masterclass, mentoring and maker day later in the year.
Year 9 Ballarat Grammar students Ruby McIntyre and Heidi Rupp won the Upstart Challenge in 2019 for their idea to create gloves for cycling that indicate the direction the rider is turning when their arm is raised.
Ms Perks said the Upstart Challenge was a way to engage students in an alternative learning program.
"We find it gives students agency and control over something they are interested in," she said.
"The Upstart Challenge is very subject matter agnostic, if students are interested in technology or sport or the arts, science or business, it really doesn't matter to us what their passions are.
"It really gives them a hook and a leaver for them to start learning the skills that will set them up for life.
"We really do want to see this as something that helps teachers and students and building for the bigger picture for the region, that entrepreneurial ecosystem that is so important to Ballarat right now."
Teachers can visit upstarthq.com.au/ for more information or to sign up.
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