Entrepreneurial Learning in Action is a NSW government and startup business initiative that challenges young people to identify problems facing a local industry, and encourages them to innovate and develop solutions.
In late-2019, St Joseph’s College successfully applied to become involved in the program alongside 13 other regional schools from across NSW.
The program connects local industry representatives and mentors with schools to identify issues and provide guidance and support. With the school’s proximity to the Hunter Valley vineyards, St Joseph’s College decided to investigate issues specific to the wine and hospitality industry.
St Joseph’s implemented the program with 21 Year 9 Commerce students during Term 3. COVID-19 restrictions necessitated changes to the delivery and implementation and industry representatives and mentors joined students via Zoom to provide information on issues to explore. Students worked in small groups to develop a business pitch to address the identified issue.
Angelina, Emily M, Emily P and Dakoda were selected to pitch their idea at the state-based competition. This team developed the business idea Hunter Valley ShiftLifts, to address the problem in the local vineyards of young people not being able to easily access transport to their jobs.
Their business proposition was an app that would connect people who need a lift to their shift in the vineyards with those who are already driving there for work. After putting this idea to the startup.business state-based pitch competition, the team received a special invitation to compete in the National Brilliant Business Kids Festival where they pitched their idea against teams from other states via Zoom.
Not only did these girls develop an interesting and viable business idea, but they also demonstrated excellent teamwork fine-tuning their business pitch and working together to achieve a positive outcome. This team and all students in Year 9 Commerce were privileged to receive mentoring from a range of local businesspeople and entrepreneurs as part of the program.
St Joseph’s initially engaged industry representatives and entrepreneurs to provide support for the student-developed concepts. Emily P said after talking to local business owners and their teacher Ms Murray, the class concluded that finding transport for young people to get to work in the vineyard area was a huge issue.
“We also surveyed students in Years 9 and 10 as well as seniors and they said transport was a problem for them, and they would be likely to use an app such as ours if it was available,” she said.
Emily P said listening to entrepreneurs and local experts such as Gus Maher (Hunter Valley Events), Matt Dillow (Matt’s Produce and The Deck Café Lovedale), Liam Scanlan (Eat Your Water), Cheryl Royle (Hunter Futurepreneurs) and Justin Hales (Camplify) inspired the students to think outside the box and look for those gaps in the market they could fill.
Emily M said the students received positive feedback from the judges on the day of their pitch, while Dakoda noted: “We had to pitch our idea live via Zoom, which was nerve-wracking but exciting.” And Angela said: “We also sent two of our local mentors, Gus Maher and Matt Dillow, a video of our pitch and they gave us some great feedback, telling us that we had identified an authentic issue and created a really creative, but simple and achievable solution.”
The Learning in Action program provides a valuable opportunity for students to develop their innovation and entrepreneurial skills, essential for further education and careers. In addressing a local issue, students are able to identify the relevance to themselves and the wider community. The support of local industry representatives also strengthens the connection between schools and the community.
Angelina said the Year 9 Commerce students needed to fine-tune their concept and seek advice about the next step. “We hope to talk to Cheryl Royle to see how we can further develop our idea,” she said.
As the saying goes: “Got a shift, grab a lift.”
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