Growing Tomorrow’s Innovators and Entrepreneurs: Why we’re focusing on talent and skills creation

Growing Tomorrow’s Innovators and Entrepreneurs: Why we’re focusing on talent and skills creation

How we came to realize just how hungry today’s youth were for new learning experiences, from coding to prototyping skills
Photo of group of students smiling at camera.
Jessica Thornton
June 13, 2016
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When 75 high school students gave up two days of their March Break holiday, traveling from all over the region to learn coding and prototyping skills, we realized just how hungry today’s youth were for new learning experiences.


Photo of students working together with laptops on desk.


The program I’m referring to was March Break Hacks – the Brookfield Institute for Innovation + Entrepreneurship’s (BII+E) first foray into piloting and testing new models for entrepreneurship and innovation learning in the winter of 2015. Only two months old, our goal was to see what would happen if we provided the space for students to learn new skills.

Subsequently, the tremendous student enthusiasm for more opportunities led to the development of Summer Basecamp, a 13 week program run parallel to Ryerson’s Basecamp program, teaching students lean startup methodology, web and mobile development. Based at Ryerson’s Launch Zone, the program also provided access to mentorship and networking opportunities. We approached this program as an experiment to better understand what high school students were capable of accomplishing when exposed to entrepreneurial learning. The outcome was remarkable, we had outdone ourselves.

Screenshot of Toronto Star Facebook post reading: Toronto teen builds heart alert device for ailing mother.

But what is a new policy focused institute doing running educational workshops for high school students?

With The Talented Mr. Robot: The impact of automation of the Canadian workforce, rising youth unemployment rates, there is critical need to rethink how we’re preparing youth for tomorrow’s workforce. We often hear an American statistic used to articulate the severity of the situation: “65% of today’s grade school students will end up in a job that hasn’t been invented yet”. However, we believe that with the growth of new sectors we would rather focus our efforts on ensuring that students develop the skills needed to adapt and thrive in Canada’s rapidly changing workforce.

Given that the majority of new jobs are coming from companies less than two years old, we feel the biggest opportunity is fostering our youth’s entrepreneurial attitudes. And as the 2015 Global Entrepreneurship Monitor report on Canada outlined, this is an area we’re lagging behind.

To adapt to the changing workforce, youth need to develop new skills and competencies in areas such as creative ideation, coding, prototyping and design thinking.

This learning needs to take place within and outside of the school system. It also needs to be made available to all youth, especially those who are typically headed for service and administration jobs – the jobs most likely to be automated over the next 10 years.

Since experimenting in our early days with March Break Hacks and Summer Basecamp, we have been focused on developing new pilots and partnerships with school boards, community organizations, and private companies, so that together we can test new ways to ensure we are building a robust pipeline of tomorrow’s innovators and entrepreneurs.

Photo of coloured post-it notes on table.

These pilots and prototypes will take many forms, and will help inform further research and analysis in the area of talent and skills creation. At BII+E, this is a priority area for us, and we look forward to working with partners to discover insights that will accelerate the development of a healthier, stronger entrepreneurial education ecosystem.

For media enquiries, please contact Nina Rafeek Dow, Marketing + Communications Specialist at the Brookfield Institute for Innovation + Entrepreneurship.