Kiwi business leaders share tips with secondary teachers

Issue: Volume 95, Number 4

Posted: 7 March 2016
Reference #: 1H9d0o

The wide-ranging mix of delegates and speakers at Wellington’s ‘It’s Business Time’ conference have one interest in common – they all share a passion for integrating enterprise education and entrepreneurial skills into classrooms.

Last December, 150 secondary school teachers from across the country met in Wellington for the biennial ‘It’s Business Time’ conference. While a number of the delegates were business studies teachers, there were also delegates from the English, maths, arts and technologies curriculum areas.

Back by popular demand

This was the second ‘It’s Business Time’ conference and followed a successful first event in 2013. Speakers at the 2013 conference included a mixture of New Zealand entrepreneurs and businesspeople, NZQA representatives, and practising teachers.

Some speakers at the 2015 iteration provided useful case studies for teachers to use in the classroom, while others provided inspiration, context, specific educator tips and advice.

Speakers included:

  • Dan Radcliffe, executive director of IVHQ (and EY Entrepreneur of the Year, 2014)
  • Justine Ross, co-founder of 42 Below
  • Phil O’Reilly, then-CEO of Business NZ
  • Sue McVeigh, NZQA national assessment moderator for accounting and business studies
  • Norm Thompson, former deputy CEO of Air New Zealand
  • Sarah Gibbs, co-founder of Trilogy
  • Vaughn Rowsell, founder of Vend
  • Annemarie McManus, NZQA qualifications development facilitator

The conference was coordinated by Young Enterprise, an organisation that works with primary and secondary schools throughout New Zealand.

Young Enterprise has shared videos of many sessions through the Young Enterprise group on POND link)

Creativity and resilience

The business leaders were from a wide variety of backgrounds, but many spoke about common themes. Phil O’Reilly from BusinessNZ spoke about feedback he has received from businesses around the country.

“For New Zealand to be competitive, we need to foster innovation. And to foster innovation, we need young people with soft skills – young people who display creativity, who can think outside the square, and are able to question the way things are done.”

This was reiterated by business journalist Andrew Patterson, who referred to an Oxford University study on the future of business. The study found that up to 50 per cent of today’s jobs could be redundant within our students’ lifetimes.

“Young people need to acquire a vast array of skills to fully equip them for a future that will continue to change ever more rapidly so that they can adapt,” he said. In particular, Andrew cited creativity intelligence, social skills, and data analytics as incredibly important skills for the future.

Pushing outside comfort zones

Many delegates found Dan Radcliffe’s presentation particularly inspirational. Dan spent five years at Otago University, eventually leaving with Bachelor of Commerce and Master of Business degrees. Dan explained how he got a job for a major company in Auckland, but only lasted three days before quitting.

After moving back to his parents’ farm in North Taranaki, he realised that all of his biggest learning experiences were when he was completely outside of his comfort zone, so he spent a few months as a volunteer teaching in Africa.

Dan’s experiences led him to starting his own volunteer travel company, International Volunteer HQ. The company is now a world leader in volunteer travel, working with customers from all over the world from their head office in New Plymouth. Dan was named EY Entrepreneur of the Year in 2014 and represented New Zealand in the global Entrepreneur of the Year competition.

(View Dan Radcliffe’s story on the POND website(external link))

Learning from failure

Justine Ross, co-founder of 42 Below and herself a trained teacher, spoke about the power that teachers have to shape New Zealand’s future. She believes the solution for New Zealand’s growth lies in the hands of teachers who can foster entrepreneurial spirit and resilience in their students.

Justine also spoke about a mindset change she believes would feed the success of future entrepreneurs – a ‘shift our success’ culture, to begin to celebrate failures instead of condemning them.

“Failures are an opportunity to reflect, learn, and try again. This mindset change is most effective when led through schools, whilst our future leaders are still young."

Educating for the future

Many conference speakers talked about the huge importance of education for New Zealand’s future. Global research has shown that, in a fast-changing world, businesses are looking for graduates with a range of skills that can transfer easily between different industries or roles.

Norm Thompson, ex-deputy CEO of Air New Zealand, spoke about what they look for when hiring people. “We hire on attitude, then train for skills.”

Norm explained that most companies expect to train staff up in specific skills, and it is attitude that is becoming increasingly significant, as companies don’t necessarily have time or resources to instil attitude. In particular, Air New Zealand focuses on having a ‘can-do’ attitude.

Terry Shubkin, CEO of Young Enterprise, noted that many speakers talked about the need for soft skills in the classroom. “When young people apply for jobs, many come equipped with training or a qualification, and often they have some community experience or involvement. The thing that sets top candidates apart are soft skills like teamwork, communication, and problem solving."

“One of the reasons we created ‘It’s Business Time’ was to foster connections between educators and the business community. For school leavers, it’s so important to make sure that they leave with a skill set which sets them up for their future. Business and enterprise can help students to learn employable skills with authenticity and help set them aside from their cohort.”

Positive feedback

Terry and her team received huge amounts of feedback from delegates. “Many commented on how the conference gave them the opportunity to discuss the ties between what our business speakers said and the changes in The New Zealand Curriculum. The five key competencies – thinking; using language, symbols and texts; managing self; relating to others; participating and contributing – all tie into exactly what the business speakers believe New Zealand needs."

“Teachers and speakers alike have expressed to us how vital it is to have opportunities like ‘It’s Business Time’ to foster connections between the classroom and business community. As one teacher put it, ‘content is at the touch of a button thanks to Google… we need to move from teaching ‘knowledge’ to teaching ‘skills of the future’.”

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero,

Posted: 8:57 pm, 7 March 2016

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