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Taking business into the classroom

Media Release

Taking business into the classroom

New Zealanders are among the world leaders when it comes to starting new businesses – but the number of these businesses that fail within the first five years is also among the highest internationally.

And that’s why Auckland businessman Tony Falkenstein is keen to see entrepreneurship and business skills becoming core subjects for secondary school students.

He says making the investment in business skills and work experience will provide pay-offs for regions through new business growth, which in turn provides an incentive for young people to stay in their home towns, rather than moving away in search of employment.

Mr Falkenstein, speaking at this week’s Regional Development Conference in Timaru, is the driving force behind Onehunga High Business School, New Zealand’s first business high school.

He believes that by developing business skills at a younger age, tomorrow’s entrepreneurs will have a greater chance of sustaining their businesses past the crucial five-year mark – and the more businesses that succeed, the greater the regional growth and the stronger New Zealand’s economy becomes.

“New Zealanders are near the top of the world when it comes to having people starting up their own businesses, but they are at the other end when it comes to continuing them on past five years. According to a Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) report, the main reason for this is the lack of business skills being taught in our schools,” Mr Falkenstein says.

“It has become clear that if we are going to be a progressive and developing economy, students with an interest in business need to be given more support and pointed in the right direction.”

Mr Falkenstein says working with schools is of benefit to business people, councils and economic development agencies because students leave school with a “better head for business” and a greater understanding of how they can contribute to business success.

He says New Zealand is generating plenty of entrepreneurs, but these business people need encouragement from day one.

“We need to recognise the relationship between attitudes and outcomes – by encouraging young people with great ideas, we are growing a whole new generation of business. Business growth brings with it benefits for the entire country, both economically and in terms of lifestyle.”

Launched in February with funding from Mr Falkenstein’s Red Eagle Corporation and an Industry New Zealand grant, Onehunga Business High School teaches students essential business and entrepreneurial skills.

Learning styles include individual and group projects, tertiary level courses in subjects such as commercial law and management studies, and seminars given by guest lecturers like Telecom CEO Theresa Gattung.

“It’s all about closing that entrepreneurial gap. It took me until I was 40 before I started a business because even though I had been to university I had no clear idea about how to do it. What we are trying to do is give young people the skills and confidence to start their own businesses from an early age.”

Mr Falkenstein believes that while all children are born with a creative mindset this begins to change when they start school.

“What we are hoping to do is uncover that creativity again and teach students how to channel it into developing their own businesses. I want children to believe that just because their parents worked their whole lives for other people that doesn’t mean they have to. They can be job creators instead of employees.”


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