History of the initiative
Founded in 2013, YELL is a charitable organisation which equips young people with the knowledge, skills and networks that are needed for after-school success. YELL operates within the public school system in Canada and thus aids in building capacity within these schools. YELL works with teachers and these teachers help strengthen and update the curriculum, along with universities. YELL’s programmes look to foster participants’ entrepreneurial mindsets and expose them to a community of entrepreneurial thinkers.
The design of the YELL programmes was sparked after a survey in the province of British Columbia (Canada) found that a very low percentage of high school leavers felt prepared for their next step after graduation. The programmes were developed to prepare students in a way that their traditional schools were not able to.
The YELL Entrepreneurship 12 course in particular, was given a valuable opportunity after a unique partnership between YELL and Simon Fraser University (SFU) was built. This partnership was specifically facilitated through Amit Sandu, Managing Director of YELL and an SFU alumnus, and Dr Sarah Lubik from SFU’s Chang Institute. Sarah had seen that there was a lack of consistency across the entrepreneurship classes being taught in high schools and a lack of understanding of what entrepreneurship education was about. Sarah felt there was a need for a platform where students could express and apply their individual entrepreneurial mindsets and also receive external benefits for this. The desire for consistency across programmes in schools and building that capacity to deliver these programmes brought YELL and SFU together.
Sarah joined YELL’s Board of Directors in 2017. In collaboration with SFU, YELL is now able to provide university credit for its Entrepreneurship 12 course, and participants are automatically included in the Chang Certificate in Innovation and Entrepreneurship. This makes it Canada’s first high school entrepreneurship course to be eligible for university credit.
Aims and objectives
The YELL Entrepreneurship 12 course is a year-long programme that aims to remove barriers to involvement in entrepreneurship for participants. This elective high school course provides consistency across entrepreneurial courses in schools so that they can be recognised as being valuable, and eventually be accredited.
Activities and learning outcomes
The YELL Entrepreneurship 12 course develops participants’ understanding in the following:
• core concepts of lean entrepreneurship
• design thinking
• financial projections
• Business Model Canvas
• problem solving
• effective communication.
The YELL Entrepreneurship 12 course is taught using a number of innovative teaching methods including differentiated learning (videos, booklets, reading materials), inquiry-based learning, experiential-based learning and problem-based learning. Suggestions for assessment include various formative and summative tasks such as tests, reflections, feedback on speakers, surveys, think-pair-share, and other curriculum markers to identify the ability towards the competences. Clearly, there is substantial room for flexibility.
The course focusses on numerous facets of entrepreneurship education and includes guest speakers, mentors and community participation. The different facets of the course include:
The course starts with students learning about lean entrepreneurship, covering topics such as design thinking, resilience, marketing, financial projections, and Business Model Canvas. Entrepreneurs and business leaders also share their stories and advice with students.
In this part of the course, local companies and labs interact with students, allowing the students to explore different career options. Here they learn about new technologies, tour office spaces and hear from industry professionals.
In the Business Incubator phase of the project, students form groups where they create a business venture together and ultimately validate their concepts. Students must problem-solve and communicate effectively. Mentors act as a liaison between teams and the broader entrepreneurship community.
Finally, participating teams compete in the Venture Challenge series hosted at SFU. Student teams present their business ventures to a panel of community members, entrepreneurs and investors.
Breaking barriers for impact
Common barriers for such projects are usually related to schools not having sufficient funding and teachers not having the capacity to implement the curriculum. Lack of support for teachers from their districts makes it more difficult for them to implement the curriculum. Parents also have a negative view of what entrepreneurship means and this can often be a barrier for students that want to take the elective. The students themselves are also looking for electives that meet university requirements and if the course does not count for university admission, then they are less likely to take part.
To overcome such barriers, YELL builds capacity within schools and collaborates with teachers and helps them adopt the curriculum. Teachers receive administrative support from schools to implement the YELL Entrepreneurship 12 course in their classrooms and the partnership between SFU and YELL can provide teachers with peer-support, course curricula, lesson plans, slide decks and workbooks. The course also has no cost for schools nor students. Institutional support is provided to YELL by SFU.
In terms of impact on educators, teachers have been seen to pick up the tools to develop their own entrepreneurial mindsets through teaching the curriculum to their students. Those that teach YELL courses also pass their skills and knowledge onto other teachers when attending professional development conferences. On the other hand, on completion of the course, participants have developed 21st century life skills and a broader understanding of what entrepreneurial thinking requires. Participants are more resilient, self-reliant, are able to spot opportunities, and build a strong network. After completing the course, 85% of students reported feeling prepared for the next step in their education or career and many alumni of the course begin their university education at SFU. Receiving recognition in the form of university credit is a motivator for students to take the course and around 330 participants are predicted to take part this year in British Columbia.
Going forward, in order to further develop the field of entrepreneurship education in general, young people should be given the tools to develop entrepreneurial skills from an early age. Entrepreneurship needs to break out from its traditional perception as being something very specific to business and economics. It needs to be understood by everyone as a mindset, a set of interdisciplinary skills that can be used to create social change. Entrepreneurship should be seen as an avenue to a more self-customised education.