As temperatures rise, so does the competition to get your children into the right summer camp. But rather than sending them to off to explore the Great Lakes in a canoe or learn an instrument, your best long-term bet may be entrepreneurship camp.
Future Design School (FDS) will holds five-day innovation camps in Toronto, Waterloo, London and the York Region in July and August this year, and launch an after-school program in Toronto starting in September. The organization’s founder, serial entrepreneur Sarah Prevette, is the perfect camp director—the equivalent of having a professional soccer player teach your kid how to kick a ball. Prevette previously founded Sprouter, an online community of entrepreneurs, and BetaKit, an online publication that tracks new developments in the Canadian technology sector.
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The idea for FDS arose from the conversations Prevette and her new FDS team have had with fellow entrepreneurs over the years. “We found that there was this ubiquitous story being told about accidental entrepreneurship,” she explains. “Everybody seemed to have this notion that they’ve learned the hard way—you’ve learned how to build products the wrong way, and learned innovation through years of bleeding in the trenches.”
FDS seeks to accelerate that process by teaching kids the tools of innovation at an early age. The teaching emphasizes problem-solving skills, user-testing and human-centred design, rather than technical skills like writing a business plan or building a budget spreadsheet. The organization splits it programming by age, with different curricula for students in grades six to eight and those in grades nine to twelve.
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Canadian business are struggling to find talented workers because the so-called “skills gap,” with new workforce entrants not possessing the necessary training or talent to fill the jobs vacated by retiring baby boomers. Entrepreneurship training may be one way to solve that problem, since innovation-oriented employees are more likely to be able to adapt to changes economy and their job requirements. Prevette says her programs are not just for kids who want to grow up to run a business, although she hopes that FDS will eventually be able to support and mentor budding entrepreneurs. “We believe that entrepreneurship is a philosophy and that while not everyone is cut out to run a startup and grow a business, everybody has creative capacity and the raw talent to be innovative,” she says. “You can be an entrepreneurial doctor, and entrepreneurial lawyer. We think that skillset is beneficial in every path you choose in life.”
While the training is not cheap—innovation camps cost $375, while the after-school program is $495—Prevette points out that’s competitive with other children’s activities. “We don’t want entrepreneurship to be only an elitist pursuit,” she insists. Ultimately, the goal is to move the teaching into a venue open to every Canadian child: the classroom. “We’re working on future programming that gets into actual schools,” she explains. “We want to enable teachers to be able to deliver some of this thinking and these frameworks and methods, and get their kids doing design thinking and entrepreneurship.”
Problem-solving is the fundamental skill of entrepreneurship, so training school kids to do it could lead to better outcomes in their future careers and lives. “We think there’s far too many smart people sitting around solving things that don’t matter, building things that don’t have an impact,” Prevette says. “We really want to focus all of this smart idealistic energy of youth onto solving real problems.”
That could yield more innovative, entrepreneurially-minded employees in a generation or two, and might make business owners a little more confident about the future of their companies. Who better to pass the family business on to than a son or daughter who’s been learning how to run a business since middle school?
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What do you think of Prevette’s plans for FDS? Can teaching entrepreneurship in schools really help children learn valuable skills? Share your thoughts using the comments section below.