Coodanup students take part in pilot entrepreneur program

A pilot entrepreneur program at Coodanup College could potentially increase STEM subjects enrollment rates and reduce unemployment in the region. 

The Young Entrepreneur program was created by the Innovation Institute in April this year to assist West Australian students in developing innovative ideas in a real world setting.

The program, which has been rolled out in a handful of West Australian schools, aims to fill a gap in the current education curriculum, which falls short in the area of entrepreneurship and innovation. 

“Young people of today will need to have flexibility, versatility and multi-faceted skills to be able to survive in the modern 21st century world,” Innovative Institute director and program facilitator Paul Litwin said.

“This is why this young entrepreneur program was born, it was to actually facilitate and improve skills for this young people.”

During the 10-week program, the students spend two hours a week learning about marketing, intellectual property and finance, and developing their innovative ideas.

They also meet with real industry mentors who give them advice and assist them in transforming their ideas into viable projects. 

Mr Litwin said the program was aligned with the City of Mandurah’s youth strategy, which hopes to tackle the region’s concerning unemployment rates through entrepreneur programs.

“We know that Mandurah has a high youth unemployment and that there is potentially a lot of disengagement with youth,” he said.

“This was an opportunity to actually do something proactive to be able to say, let’s not wait for the problem to become a major problem, let’s actually step in before that time.”

Program mentors Duffy Jones, Natasa Perovec and Steve Bingham said they were impressed by the students, who had managed to identify and address real gaps in the market. 

“I’ve found it quite refreshing how I had so quickly forgotten they were Year 8 students that actually they were trying to think about a product that appealed to them as a young person but that was going to be launched into the wide world,” Ms Jones said. 

Mr Litwin said the institute was planning to expand the program in the near future to include more primary school students. 

“The earlier you start with these skill building areas particularly in innovation and entrepreneurship the better it is, that they are then able to gain the confidence to do the STEM subjects,” he said.

“This is about building their confidence, building their abilities.”

Solving real life issues

Coodanup Year 8 students Andrew Seaman and Thomas Pekel are about to finish the 10-week program.

The pair have spent the last few months drafting their project: a remote controlled computer programmable mini excavator.

“To stop workers getting injured in the line of their job,” Andrew said.

“I applied [for the program] and I was thinking what we could do and then that just randomly popped into my head.”

Andrew decided to apply for the program to increase his creative skills. 

So far, he said, the program has been successful in boosting his creative thinking and building up his programming skills.

 “It’s taught me a lot of things about how to use different programs,” he said.

“It’s enjoyable and it’s good, we are getting a lot out of the mentors.”

The students will be presenting their projects in front of three other participating schools in an expo on October 8.