Cooperation between enterprises and schools raises interest in young people for different spheres of life
"Put a dent in the universe" is one of the seven success principles of Steve Jobs. An inspiring learning experience or a trip to a business can affect the future decisions and wishes of the youth. It is beneficial for businesses and schools to cooperate in order to ensure options, useful learning experiences, and practical skills for the makers of the future. That was precisely what was discussed at the seminar „Kooli ja ettevõtte koostööst sünnivad tulevikutegijad“ ("The makers of future are born from the cooperation of schools and businesses") which took place at the Öpiku Conference Centre in Tallinn on May 16.
A human learns the best when the learning process is gripping, challenging and when he/she realizes why he/she should study certain things. In efforts to make the materials taught at schools as practical as possible and to help students learn how to associate theory with practice, schools should cooperate closely with businesses and other out-of-school partners. One can see such substantial and practical cooperation already across Estonia, but so much more could be done and with more sense, so a habit of acting jointly would arise.
A research conducted by an entrepreneurship education programme Edu ja Tegu (Deed of Success) showed that young people wish to acquire a more practical education and think it should be more connected to the world of work. According to teachers, the problem is often lack of time and interest of businesses. At the same time, the businesses face a problem of not finding enough skilled people in the job market. To help young people make more conscious choices, they need to get in touch with the specialists of different areas, who could enrich the learning process in a practical way and bring examples from life and speak about what the employer expects and what is the current situation in the job market.
Good examples from Estonian schools and businesses
Kadrioru Saksa Gümnaasium has been implementing practical learning of economics in German in cooperation with businesses for already five years. Each student taking the economics course must complete a week-long work practice and submit a practice report afterward. School's economics course and practice coordinator Michael Kirschinger explained: "We wish to widen a young person's horizon as soon as possible, so they would understand quicker, what is their focus, their strengths and in which areas they might be useful in the future. In order to do that, we invite entrepreneurs to speak about the options in their businesses. Additionally, I believe that contact with a business should be such, that the school enters the so-called real life, not the other way around." He also shared his experience of the fact that entrepreneurs know it is hard to find good employees and this is why they are ready to invest into the future and cooperate with schools.
Cooperation between local businesses and Kadrina Secondary School began already 14 years ago, when a school alumnus and board member of Aru Grupp AS, Juhan Viise, turned to school with his concern that due to the rapid progress of technology we are soon facing the problem of lack of qualified workforce and this problem in the education should be prevented early on. This, in cooperation with local business, lead to the birth of an optional subject "Introduction to business management and technology". The school's headmaster, Arvo Pani, added: "We motivate our students to choose science and specialize in technology and be entrepreneurial. The sustainability of our parish relies on the people and there are already examples of young people who, after graduating, have come back to their home parish". According to the headmaster, the first partnership with Aru Grupp created a foundation for bigger cooperation with other businesses as well, which means that businesses participate in the school's learning process in different ways starting from already the elementary level. There are plenty of examples of cooperation between Kadrina school and businesses. An enterprise can organise info days to introduce their business and area of activities, plan training visits and traineeships in Estonia but also in a foreign country, send their people to lecture at school and organise events in cooperation with the school. For example, an IT and technology festival CADrina takes place in Kadrina. Furthermore, the best students have an opportunity to replace workers during their summer holidays, because high school students have already sufficient computer knowledge for that.
The marketing department manager of Silberauto AS, Jana Ribelis, has also come to share their substantive cooperation experience with Kadrina Secondary School at the seminar. Together, they worked out an optional subject for gymnasium level called "Introduction to marketing and sales". The lessons set out in the subject syllabus were divided among the workers of the enterprise and students got an amazing opportunity to learn from the specialists of top business. Jana Ribelis recommended the schools to be as flexible and responsive to enterprises as possible and not be put off by first obstacles. The students should also be encouraged to ask more questions from the workers who have come to teach a class – such an opportunity won't arise every day.
The leader and founder of a software company Brightspark OÜ, Kari Maripuu, has been teaching entrepreneurship to children in different age groups at Tabasalu Gymnasium and contributed to being a mentor of student companies. In his words, interest in entrepreneurship is not determined by age and he has taught economics lessons to pupils in grade 1 as well, which turned out to be a very positive experience. Children learned through a pancake café how to set up a business plan and interpret the basis of marketing by answering a question "How can we get the client to buy?". For older pupils, Kari tries to find associations between entrepreneurship and other subjects, for example, mathematics, English and even industrial arts. "Integrating different subjects gives an opportunity to find more time for entrepreneurship education in the scope of the national curriculum. It is not always so important to seek for separate lessons in the dense curriculum, but one should try to teach subjects which support each other together. This makes teaching even the routine subjects more interesting for children and gives them a hint, how the subject taught might be actually necessary later on," explained Kari.
Kari sees that despite the growing interest of the entrepreneurs, the entrepreneurship education cannot be built up based on entrepreneurs visiting schools, because he finds this method not sustainable. It is certain that an entrepreneur with a busy schedule is unable to take on a mission of teaching at schools alongside their main job. However, the teachers involved in the entrepreneurship education could be brought inside enterprises in the form of traineeships, let them participate in the board meetings, involve them in company's strategy discussions, sales meetings, etc. This would give them a practical skill to enrich their classes with practical examples and connect the subject taught with real life. In addition, this would prepare the grounds for cooperation between teachers and enterprises supporting entrepreneurship education.
Interesting ideas on how schools and enterprises could be useful to each other
There are several ways of supporting cooperation between schools and enterprises. The most common ones are, for example, school trips to an enterprise, visitor lessons by entrepreneurs, offering apprenticeship and student job shadowing at the companies. But there are many more opportunities if cooperation is well planned and targeted. As a result of group session brainstorming at the seminar, people came up with multiple interesting cooperation ideas. For instance, students could put together humorous videos of the enterprise job descriptions for the enterprises. They could create content for social media channels or organize a health day for enterprises in the form of a physical education lesson. A good option is also to involve students in developing a new product or service. From another angle, the students could learn public speaking by compiling and presenting a sales talk or pitch on the basis of different products and services of a company.
More inspiration for different cooperation opportunities between schools and enterprises can be found in the collection of good practices, which can be found HERE.