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For students to thrive now and in their future they need to learn how to become adaptable lifelong learners. Their future will most likely entail having multiple jobs or careers, not one employment stream for life and we need to prepare them for that. In fact they may do work in the future that hasn’t even been conceived of yet. What is clear though is, as technology increasingly aids us in repetitive tasks there will be an even greater call for a very human skill set. Enter what’s being called the ‘entrepreneurial mindset.’

The Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship has developed a framework for an entrepreneurial mindset titled “Entrepreneurial Mindset: Tools for Life,” which calls out the following skills:

  • Initiative & Self-Reliance
  • Flexibility & Adaptability
  • Communication & Collaboration
  • Creativity & Innovation
  • Critical Thinking & Problem Solving
  • Future Orientation
  • Opportunity Recognition
  • Comfort with Risk

These are the life-long skills needed by today’s students if they are to thrive and become the leaders and change agents of the future. I think we can all agree that the industrialized education system from the previous century is not supporting students in the way they need anymore. Students will not thrive by being able to memorize facts and figures, while not understanding how to think critically. Interdisciplinary studies, real-world learning, and project-based learning are all excellent structures for helping students to recognize their inner entrepreneurial traits. 

Dan Wettrick is a teacher who became so passionate about teaching entrepreneurial skills to young students, he founded ‘The STARTedUP Foundation’. These are his main focus points:

  • Become indispensable by being persistently generous for those you serve and creating opportunities
  • Build a strong positive personal brand: cultivating a positive image by being mindful of what you post online. STARTedUp helps young people build a valuable LinkedIn profile.
  • Develop an entrepreneurial spirit: Be creative, innovative, and deliver value.

Wettrick wants to create a ‘new normal for students’ where they’re looking for ways to add value, not just pass tests and chase grades. The Foundation has a really inspiring mission: ‘We envision a world where young people are freed of apathy, purposelessness, addiction and complacency, by embracing the personal responsibility, service, creativity and purpose of an entrepreneurial way of being.’ I think that’s a vision we can all get behind – so where to start? A good place would be the very environment that needs to support these skills, and it needs to look and be equipped for purpose. Rows of desks in over cluttered, fluorescent lit rooms does not set the stage for acquiring critical thinking skills. If we are shifting educational and pedagogy intentions we need to shift the learning environments to match those intentions with the goal of optimizing successful learning outcomes.

The key components to creating a healthy, inspiring learning environment that will support the development of an entrepreneurial mindset are:

  • Create a clutter-free and calm space: regardless of age we are all more productive, alert and engaged with the topic at hand in a calm and clutter-free environment. Particularly when students feel the space has been created with their needs in mind, and have ownership of their space they are much more engaged than when they feel they are stepping into an adult domain.
  • Have as much natural light as possible, again regardless of age, we all respond in a much more positive way in a naturally lit environment.
  • Having an agile and flexible space fosters agile and flexible thinking. Giving students empowerment of choice of where and how they learn best, leads to deeper learning. If possible include various and different height seating and standing options where students can find their own place where they feel safe and comfortable and can focus.
  • As collaboration and cooperation are essential skills for success, collaborative areas are also needed for group projects and hands-on learning.
  • Have your learning environment be as sustainable and healthy as possible. All students are faced with the climate crisis and being part of an environment and culture of sustainability helps everyone acknowledge that and helps find solutions.

When students learn critical thinking and multi-faceted problem solving skills, we all benefit. If we are to experience a better tomorrow we need all young people to develop an entrepreneurial mindset and become the change agents we need.