Sydney School of Entrepreneurship opens in “wonderfully unprecedented” plan to train the next generation of entrepreneurs

Sydney School of Entrepreneurship

Sydney School of Entrepreneurship chief executive Nick Kaye (left) and Deputy Premier and Minister for Small Business John Barilaro. Source: Supplied.

University students across New South Wales will now have free access to an entrepreneurship program designed to “instill in our students the entrepreneurial spirit we see across the world,” according to NSW Deputy Premier and Minister for Small Business John Barilaro, who officially opened the Sydney School of Entrepreneurship this morning.

The Sydney School will be lead by Nick Kaye, a prominent entrepreneurship specialist, who has returned home to Australia after after heading up the Stockholm School of Entrepreneurship.

He tells StartupSmart the program is “wonderfully unprecedented” in its scope, with all 11 NSW universities and TAFE NSW to offer the entrepreneurship program.

“In Stockholm we had five universities participating: this is on a whole different scale,” Kaye says. 

Deputy Premier Barilaro says the program’s aim lies in “trying to change the culture that we often have [in Australia] with students going through university”.

“They’re all training or studying for a job and a career rather than the idea of becoming entrepreneurs of the future,” he says. 

Fostering a spirit of entrepreneurship will be a key part of the NSW government’s future plans for business, according to Barilaro, who hopes to see at least 1000 student entrepreneurs participating in Sydney School of Entrepreneurship courses and activities during their TAFE program or university degree. 

Sydney: A startup capital

The Sydney School of Entrepreneurship will be funded by a $25 million cornerstone investment from the NSW government, and Barilaro tells StartupSmart the program is part of the government’s plan to “cement Sydney as a startup capital”, and consolidate its position in the “top three startup ecosystems in the region”.

The plan also includes Sydney CBD’s government-funded $35 million Sydney startup hub and the recent announcement of the $18 million Boost program, which will the government partnering with NSW universities to build a network of accelerators and incubators.

Barilaro hopes the School of Entrepreneurship will “instill entrepreneurial spirit” in the next generation of workers, “equipping them with the skills to improve success rates” in entrepreneurial endeavors.

“This program came off the back of a study by the government that saw our success rate for entrepreneurship was less than across the global average; we wanted to focus on developing the skills that could provide [Australian entrepreneurs] with the greatest success,” Barilaro says, although the Minister acknowledges that achieving success in entrepreneurial endeavours isn’t everything.

“I would rather 1000 entrepreneurs try and fail than not try at all,” he says.

“A perfect storm” for innovation

Kaye spent 10 years in Stockholm setting up its successful School of Entrepreneurship, which has seen the likes of Soundcloud and Klarna graduate from the program. During his career, he has also served on the boards and steering committees of the International Centre for Enterprise and Entrepreneurship Policy, TiE Nordic, the Transit Incubator, and the Centre for Social Entrepreneurship in Stockholm, among others.

Having recently returned to Australia, he says the advancements made by the local startup ecosystem over the past decade are clear.

“I think this is a particularly exciting period — there is a very strong and active ecosystem, very positive momentum, and very strategic leadership from [NSW] state government,” Kaye says. 

This is creating what Kaye calls “a perfect storm” for fostering innovation.

“This funding [for the School of Entrepreneurship] has come at a pivotal time,” he says.

Kaye envisions the School of Entrepreneurship as a “precursor” that inspires university students to then take their startup ideas to the government’s CBD startup hub, emphasising that the students from this school will provide a “very important pipeline of talent” that will then be supported through the hub.

“There will be a lot of interaction between both of our communities … we can expect great things as we continue to move forward and develop this ecosystem together,” he says.

The program will be available to students enrolled in TAFE NSW and all NSW universities as a free, add-on program to their studies, and will be based in an “experiential learning campus in Ultimo”, with activities also taught across a variety of campuses across the state, according to Kaye.

The Ultimo campus has been converted from its original state, first as a shoe factory and then a school of fashion and footwear, and is now designed to create a unique learning environment that can be used for one-on-one sessions through to guest lectures and events of up to 250 people, the NSW government says.

The future of entrepreneurship

Kaye believes “from all entrepreneurial experiences come great lessons”, and these lessons are key to creating a future of innovation and job security in Australia.

“We don’t know what the future holds in terms of careers and startup opportunities, and we want to equip our student entrepreneurs with an entrepreneurial mindset and the set of skills that will help them on that journey over time — whether it’s creating a startup or innovating within a company,” Kaye says.

While every entrepreneur’s journey is individual and unique, he says the skill of entrepreneurial thinking “can be taught by both developing attributes and learning skills to expedite that entrepreneurial journey”.

Kaye observes that entrepreneurialism will also play a vital role in the rapidly shifting future of work, and in 10 years time, having entrepreneurial skills will be highly applicable across the business landscape.

“Sixty percent of the most exciting jobs of the future are yet to be created,” he says.

“Over time we certainly hope and expect to see the creation of new companies and jobs, and we really do believe we are supporting our student entrepreneurs for the careers of the future, not just the startups of the future.”

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