Students from Keira High School, wearing blue jumpers, stand in front of two UOW screens.

Young entrepreneurs share their ideas with iAccelerate mentors

Young entrepreneurs share their ideas with iAccelerate mentors

High school students pitch plans for local communities as part of workshop to foster innovation

How do we bring big ideas to life? What tools are needed to address urgent community issues?

High school students from across the Illawarra, Shoalhaven, and South Western Sydney gained valuable lessons in the art of pitching when the University of Wollongong (UOW)  and iAccelerate hosted a group of Young Entrepreneurs last week (Friday, 2 September).

During the one-day event, students from participating In2Uni schools learnt about iAccelerate, engaged in an entrepreneurial workshop, and designed a pitch to be presented to the panel of judges. The pitch addressed a local community issue.

There were three to five students in each team, with students from Years 9 to 11 invited to take part. Eight teams participated in the Young Entrepreneurs event, which was held at the iAccelerate Building at UOW’s Innovation Campus. 

Professor Theo Farrell, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic and Student Life) at UOW, said entrepreneurial skills would set university graduates apart in the modern workplace.

“With technology driving such rapid change in our economy, entrepreneurial skills are increasingly in demand with employers. The Young Entrepreneurs program is an excellent example of UOW’s commitment to empower young people for their futures,” Professor Farrell said.

James Terry, Team Leader for Widening Participation at UOW, said Young Entrepreneurs was a great way to engage high school students in the University environment and encourage them to think big.

“Our programs promote 21st century employability skills and Young Entrepreneurs offers students the opportunity to showcase these skills in a unique environment. We were thrilled to hear their innovative ideas and the students really rose to the challenge,” Mr Terry said. 

“Hosting events these past few years has been a cantankerous effort, so we were thrilled to open the doors to a vibrant community of students eager to engage with UOW.

“We encourage students to consider all pathways after high school and entrepreneurship is a very real possibility for some of these kids. This could be someone’s first step in their entrepreneurial journey and a focus on addressing issues in their community seems like a great place to start.” 

Five students from Bomaderry High School, all wearing green, red and white jumpers, stand in front of two screens with UOW on them.

The Bomaderry High School team were awarded the People's Choice Award. 

The teams worked with mentors from iAccelerate to develop their pitch, which was presented to the panel of judges at the end of the day. There were awards for Judge’s Choice and People’s Choice.

Keira High School received the award for Judge's Choice. The team included students: Hunter Gill, Alexander Bogovac, Imran Cakar, and Lawrence Tsui. Bomaderry High School was named the winner of the People's Choice Award with team members: Olivia Hinkley, Olivia Healey, Helayna Harris, Jordan Pham and Seth McCroary.

Sabine Straver, iAccelerate Education Program Manager, said it was fantastic to see the skills of innovation and entrepreneurship fostered in the region’s young people.

“Young Entrepreneurs encourages high school students to have big ideas, to think outside the box, to thoughtfully and strategically consider the changes they could implement to make a difference in their local community,” Ms Straver said.

“These valuable skills, will provide a strong foundation for the participants to build on their entrepreneurships as they finish high school and move into the wider world.

“iAccelerate is thrilled to be nurturing the creativity and perspectives of these young entrepreneurs, and helping them to think about how they can make a difference in their own world. This is the next generation of entrepreneurs and we can’t wait to welcome them in to the iAccelerate community.”

In2Uni is a UOW-led program, in collaboration with the NSW Department of Education and Communities, Illawarra and South East Region, and the Catholic Education Office, which is offered to select primary and high schools and individual students. The aim is to raise awareness among students and encourage their aspirations towards higher education.

iAccelerate is a unique business accelerator and incubator program at UOW, where start-ups, scale ups, social enterprises and businesses thrive. Businesses are supported by a robust model of education, mentoring, seed funding and unparalleled access to one of the world’s most innovative young research universities.