A recent focus group of Grade 11 and 12 students in Louis Riel School Division high schools revealed that upcoming graduates are apprehensive about post-high school life and work.
They cited precarious employment, global competition, obsolete jobs, artificial intelligence and educational choices that don’t match labour-market needs as factors fueling career angst.
In today’s digital age, a new reality is taking shape — students may have to create their own jobs.
High schools can do more to help. According to Yong Zhao, foundation distinguished professor at the University of Kansas and author of World Class Learners, high schools need to become hubs of entrepreneurial thinking and creative problem-solving.
For the past 10 years, LRSD’s annual Tigers’ Den Entrepreneurship Conference has spurred on Grade 11 and 12 students to develop innovative business ideas that make a difference in the world.
This year’s event on March 2 included 75 students, 15 teachers and 34 businesses and entrepreneurs.
Josh Simair, chief executive officer of Skip the Dishes, and Ben Sanders, Silicon Valley entrepreneur and Collège Jeanne Sauvé grad, offered inspirational keynote addresses to start the day.
Sanders emphasized that "entrepreneurship is a viable path toward building a dream job."
In random groups of six or seven, students pitched ideas to teammates, with each newly minted ‘company’ choosing a single idea as the focus for the day.
Each crew worked through a LEAN Business Canvas with mentorship from 12 Winnipeg entrepreneurs, including Chris Johnson of Permission Click Inc., Luc Bohunicky of Consultica and Corey King of Zenfri Inc.
Alex Kitt, a Grade 11 student from Glenlawn Collegiate, enjoyed the encouraging atmosphere "with ‘no’ eliminated from our vocabularies."
Grade 11 Dakota Collegiate student Michael Grindean felt the day "allowed me to stretch out my brain" and appreciate that "failure equals good."
From 2 to 3:10 p.m., the Legacy Centre at the board office was in full roar with 144 pitches to 22 local ‘tigers’, who assessed the plans on whether or not they truly solved a problem for a particular target market.
Declan MacDonald, CEO of Pricerazzi, thought "the businesses created on the day would do well in the real world… the students’ creativity was amazing."
Adriana Brkic, Grade 12 Collège Jeanne Sauvé student and a leader in the North Forge Youth initiative, believes entrepreneurial programming "builds skills that help students decide on career paths after high school and increases student engagement and curiosity."
The third place company was called EASE, which pitched a customizable headrest that promoted health and stress-free environments; second place was SHOPFAST, a tool that attaches to a shopping cart to eliminate the time spent in checkout lines; and the winner was SHINELY, a therapeutic lamp that reduces chronic pains.
Exit evaluations revealed that 90 per cent of the participants would consider starting businesses in the future.
Adriano Magnifico is a community correspondent for St. Boniface. You can contact him at email@example.com