Sue Williamson, Chief Executive SSAT, writes…
Can youth, technology and entrepreneurship change the world from the bottom up? Increasingly I believe so – provided we don’t underestimate what young people can achieve, and give them the right opportunities and encouragement.
The title of this blog comes from a book to which I frequently return – Rob Salkowitz’s Young World Rising. Published in 2010, Salkowitz’s work charts how around the world, a new generation of entrepreneurs is rising up to meet the challenges of the 21st century. If you haven’t read Young World Rising, or the follow up Young World Shining: Dispatches from the expanding frontiers of innovation, I strongly recommend them to you.
On a recent visit to Vyners School I was told the story of Josh Valman. He began his engineering career at 10 years old, with a fascination in robotics. At 15 he was consulting on supply chain and engineering for some of the world’s largest manufacturing companies. Now, aged 19, Josh is Managing Director of RPD International – a company that operates globally and was recently valued as a multi-million dollar company. From their HQ in Westminster, Josh’s teams provide product design, manufacturing and supply chain solutions to companies across Europe, Asia and America. Clients include top aerospace firms, major airlines, high street retailers and British super car manufacturers.
It’s these kind of stories that fuel my conviction that – regardless of context, or what Ofsted say – schools really can change students’ lives by providing the opportunities and encouragement that genuinely prepare them for the future. A recent report by the British Chambers of Commerce endorsed SSAT’s view that schools, HE, FE and employers must work together to prepare young people for the world of work. Young people have to tackle real world problems, and develop the resilience and determination to solve new challenges.
At our National Conference 2012, young entrepreneur Emily Cummins said in her main stage keynote: ‘Students need to learn skills like leadership, using their initiative, creativity, questioning and analysing. I sometimes wonder whether we are teaching these skills well enough in the classroom. Students need to identify a problem, think about how they can solve it, research what currently exists, ask questions, use their creativity to come up with the best solution possible, test it, and analyse it again. Then we will have students who are ready for work.’
These skills can be developed through an academic or a vocational curriculum. At this year’s National Conference, we will hear how students at North East Wolverhampton Academy are building a real light aircraft at an after-school club. The students are developing their understanding of the scientific and engineering principles behind flight and are developing project management, problem-solving, team working and communication skills. The project is giving the students confidence to engage in other aspects of their learning.
In your classrooms, you could have the next Richard Branson, the next James Dyson or the next JK Rowling – schools have to create a learning environment that enables young people with different talents to flourish.
Both Josh, Emily and the students at North East Wolverhampton Academy advocate for the benefits of schools applying real world situations to education. We know the world is changing fast and that young people are taking a leading role – schools have to embrace change and ensure that all young people are equipped to face and meet the challenges of their world.
Do join us at the SSAT National Conference 2014, 4-5 December in Manchester, as we explore these themes and more by focusing on ‘The Learner’.