The illuminate:nextgen Challenge is a week-long intensive program that allows secondary students to experience first-hand what it takes to be an entrepreneur and small business champions. Facilitated by skilled staff with the support of the local business community, students learn what it takes to start a new business in a week, going through the process of developing the idea, refining it, making sure it connects with customers and is viable – all the way up to pitching for investment to get it off the ground!
Developed by Adam Mostogl of illuminate Education (Top 30 Under 30 Australian Entrepreneurs 2017, Tasmanian Young Australian of the Year 2015), the program takes into account what it is really like to run your own small business in the modern world, the skills that Australia’s youth needs to be active and engaged citizens in their own community as well as being aligned to the Australian Curriculum at each year level it is offered across multiple subject areas. And with our experienced facilitators coming into your community to deliver the program authentically and support your students, it’s an impactful experience that will leave a legacy for years to come for all involved.
With teachers often commenting about how every student should go through something like this while at school and students remarking it was one of the most impactful weeks of school ever and that they learned more in a week at the illuminate:nextgen Challenge then they get out of a whole term, this is something you can’t miss!
Overview of the Week
As you can probably already tell, a lot happens in a week at the illuminate:nextgen Challenge that it is hard sometimes to put it into words!
To help with that, here is a short clip that gives an overview of the week, from the moments the students arrived at the venue through to the announcement of the Overall Best Team at the end of the challenge. Filmed at our Central Coast (NSW) program in 2017, you’ll see over 150 students from across the region at the University of Newcastle’s Ourimbah Campus coming up with new businesses in the challenge as well as pitching their ideas and completing a number of other tasks. This program was possible with the support of the University of Newcastle and Chartered Accountants Australia & New Zealand (who produced the video).
In a nutshell, it’s an intensive week-long program, where students work in teams to develop solutions to problems with business ideas and test it through generating marketing materials, business plans, financial models, presentations, creative thinking exercises and much more – with all of the skills introduced in the week. However in alignment with the core values of illuminate Education, we recognise that these skills are not just essential to starting your own business, but learning how business operates in an authentic and engaging manner allows students to understand how business works for when they want to get a job, or how to get a great community project off the ground through the skills they learn in the week.
The challenge is designed in a way that allows students who have never set foot in a business classroom before can learn what they need to complete the program, with skilled facilitators leading the week and community members supporting the process. This is important as many of the communities we go to do not have business as a common subject in school, but also our style of delivery allows illuminate Education to reiterate knowledge in this area in a manner that students engage with – and competition is always a great motivator. With programs hosting anywhere between 40 and 400 students, the mixture of abilities in the room from different schools and/or backgrounds make this a rich experience that students will remember for years to come, and one the community and parents value as well.
The illuminate:nextgen Challenge is designed for Year 9 and 10 students in the first instance, as this is a key stage in making the big decisions for their future educational and employment pathways. However each program is designed to meet the needs of the school and the community, with some programs including students from Year 6 through to Year 10 in the same week – or even a Year 11 and 12 program integrated into business units. We know that the experience does need to be educationally relevant too, which is why we have aligned the illuminate:nextgen Challenge across the Australian Curriculum at Years 7, 8, 9 and 10 levels in English, Mathematics, Science, Humanities and Social Sciences (Economics and Business & Civics and Citizenship), Technologies (Digital Technologies), The Arts (Media Arts and Visual Arts) and Work Studies, as well as the Australian Career Development Blueprint.
As already outlined, the program is delivered in person – not through a digital platform. We value the opportunity to engage with students, join them at their tables as they are working and present in the room – which means for the week the program is running, our experienced facilitators will take control of the learning environment, guiding students through the tight deadlines, required submissions and team management issues to get to the other end of the week feeling proud of what they have achieved. The program is fully planned and resources are prepared upon arriving in the school to reduce all headaches – with a number of registered teachers across the illuminate Education team, we know what programs like this can mean for teachers and our efforts are focused on reducing as many requirements as possible to ensure that everyone enjoys the journey that is the illuminate:nextgen Challenge.
Register Your Interest
We’ve got programs running across Australia this year, and the best way to ensure your students don’t miss out is to register your interest today. This way you’ll be given registration details and updates as the program draws near.
We’ve included a frequently asked questions section online to help you learn more about the illuminate:nextgen Challenge so you can see the impact the program can have on your students as well as the operational details as well – and below is a map of our upcoming programs across Australia.
In Your School?
illuminate Education also delivers illuminate:nextgen Challenges in schools for an entire year group to benefit from the program, as well as additional benefits for the school community – just get in touch with us to explore this option.
What Others Say
Don’t just take our word about the benefits of the illuminate:nextgen Challenge – here are some teachers who have been involved in past programs reflecting on the program.
“The nextgen Challenge has .. become one of Riverside High Schools priorities as an educational activity outside the normal curriculum. The students are given an amazing opportunity to experience the world of work in a truly invigorating and educational environment. All students should experience something like this in their journey through high school.”
“In this rapidly changing world with the rise of emerging economies and onset of digital disruption, programs like Illuminate are absolutely critical to regional communities. Rather than seeing change as a threat, Illuminate opens the eyes of our young people to the opportunities that change presents.”
“The illuminate:nextgen Challenge was, as described by one of our students at our school’s end of year awards ceremony, a life changing experience for our Year 10 students. The week created such a positive vibe amongst those doing the challenge and indeed, throughout the entire school, and students from all years seemed to be taking an active interest. It certainly allowed our students to develop all of those ’21st century skills’ that everyone is talking about – self-directed learning, leadership, team-work, stress management, time prioritisation, meeting deadlines, innovative and creative thinking and public-speaking, with that all important exposure to how a business works. I really do believe that this challenge, and the skills that were developed by students, will have a lasting impact on them, not only for success in Year 11 and 12, but also post-school education and in their working lives.”
“Thank you and your team for the fantastic experience had by our students during the illuminate:nextgen Challenge. Our students were engaged throughout and took away many valuable new insights in regards to the world of business and also valuable insights into how they respond to a challenge. The event was fantastically managed, flowed effortlessly and delivered the right balance of expert input with student work. Both you [Adam] and Gabrielle were excellent role models for the kids and ran the week in a professional and engaging manner. As a staff member supervising students, I enjoyed myself throughout the week and would love the opportunity to attend again with another group of students ready to take our business pitch to a new level!!”
“The illuminate:nextgen Challenge gave our students from 13 schools an extraordinary experience where they applied the great skills they are getting to a real world situation beyond the classroom. They excelled throughout the entire challenge process using real life skills around interrogating information to solve a problem creatively, research, digital literacy, presentation, market research and collaboration. The students grew so much throughout the experience and they readily articulated that learning. A wonderful opportunity to try the real world in a great learning environment. Cannot recommend the challenge highly enough!”
“Reports back from our students who were involved in the challenge are uniformly enthusiastic, and every participant rates the illuminate:nextgen Challenge as one of the most valuable learning experiences they’ve had in high school. Best of all, the impressive amount of preparation and foresight that has gone into the nextgen Challenge ensures that the week runs very smoothly, with enough to keep students spurred on and working, but not too much to overload them.”
“The students completed a massive amount of work, but more than that demonstrated true character in their exhibition of teamwork, problem solving, critical thinking, inquiry and organisation. It was truly humbling to see them step up and thrive during this challenge. They should be proud of themselves and [fellow teachers] should be proud to know that the work you do with these students every day played a huge part in their ability to succeed in this challenge.”
“The illuminate:nextgen Challenge was an amazing opportunity for our students to discover things about themselves they would not have been about to explore in the everyday classroom. The way the program was run was exceptional, teaching students about the various elements of running a business, giving them practical skills and then allowing them to “get their hands dirty” by applying their new enterprise knowledge. Students were extended and pushed to achieve some incredible results and the comments since they have returned have been nothing but positive.”
“”The illuminate:nextgen Challenge was a valuable experience for our Year 9 students. Yes, students learnt a lot about what it takes to start up a business. Importantly, they also learnt a lot about collaboration, communication, working under pressure and problem solving. Students were encouraged to participate in a real-world experience, beyond the classroom, to bring their ideas to life. Students stepped up and pushed themselves that little bit further to complete the challenge.”
“”What a week! The students were engaged, the presenters were authentic, and the simulations were as close to a real business experience as one could ever hope for. A business team challenge like this encompasses many areas of any curriculum – literacy and communication, numeracy, ICT, public speaking and presentation, current affairs, values and ethics. Students are challenged to present their work in front of academics, “real business people” and the general public. Illuminate have created a brilliant programme that is accurately targeted at years 9 and 10 – they really understand what they’re about.”
“The illuminate:nextgen Challenge was an awesome experience for our students. They were provided with a level of challenge greater than they would normally experience and were placed in a working environment that allowed them to explore their ideas and skills in a mature workspace. The ownership that the students demonstrated of their idea from brainstorming to the final product was key and their sense of achievement at the end of the week was enormous. Students were empowered by the experience and felt great pride in their success.”
“The illuminate:nextgen Challenge is a full and very well executed program that encourage students to think big and really test their own boundaries. What I love about the program is that students are submerged into an environment where they can take charge of their own learning. I have witnessed students gain skills in personal presentation, public speaking and most of all, team work. They are able to assume, and often excel, in roles that mimic the real world challenges of business including management, product development, finances and marketing. It’s a fantastic program that inspires students to realise what they are really made of!”
Frequently Asked Questions
Below are some of the frequently asked questions about the illuminate:nextgen Challenge that will give you more information about what we do and how the program works. Please note the answers are generic in nature as we are not talking about particular programs, but can be provided upon request by contacting us directly.
We’re not ones for limiting students who should be involved as we believe almost any student would flourish in this learning environment, we would recommend offering this to students who;
- Are interested in starting their own business, regularly shows initiative and is creative in their approaches to problems, or
- Could be leaders in the future, so they can benefit from the skills developed in the challenge to excel no matter their future decisions, or
- Currently considering if further education is an option for them, as it will give them an authentic experience of what an adult learning environment is like, or
- Are excelling in school as this learning environment is self-directed allowing their skills and passions to drive their performance, or
- Are disengaged from learning, as students explore concepts in authentic ways and can explore their passions through the way the challenge is facilitated, or
- Are undertaking business, commerce and accounting classes as the content will be delivered by people in the fields to boost their knowledge and allow them to apply the knowledge in a new environment.
The program will be entirely dependent on the capacity of the available venues in the area, however we’d like to have as many students as possible participate. Our team are capable of running programs with up to 300 students in the one program, but only if the venue allows for us to safely host this many students.
We recommend to enter as teams of seven, however you can enter teams of between five and eight students. These sizes have been set on our previous experience in running this programs that maximise student engagement in tasks without excessively overloading students.
We keep the exact wording of the theme secret until the opening presentation of the challenge, to add to the excitement and pressure of the experience. This ensures that all students have the opportunity to approach the challenge with an open mind, but the theme will be relevant to the economy and region. In the past we’ve given students themes such as social entrepreneurship, sustainability, tourism development, manufacturing and exporting internationally, and much more.
No. The illuminate:nextgen Challenge is developed so that all students can learn the basics of business and entrepreneurship through the presentations and content delivered in the four/five day period.
During the challenge, the entire program is run by facilitators from illuminate Education. We also invite speakers from the community as well as representatives from our partners to present content as well as judge the student work. Whilst teaching staff may assist students on the first day, their role will be primarily to supervise. Teaching staff will also have the opportunity to attend lecture sessions.
At the conclusion of the program, an awards ceremony will be hosted to celebrate students’ achievements across the challenge. Awards will be presented to teams and schools, based on criteria as set out at the beginning of the week.
illuminate Education recognises that schools have their own duty of care requirements and recommend these should be followed, whether the program is occuring on the school campus or off-site. illuminate Education will have at least one facilitator attending the program at all times, with all facilitators holding current Working with Children Checks.
Awards will be presented for tasks submitted throughout the challenge as well as overall awards at an award ceremony on the last day of the challenge. The judging panel will be made up of representatives from the community as well as supporters of illuminate Education, with all work assessed against eight criteria:
- Creative thinking and innovation
- Strategy and planning
- Financial interpretation
- Presentation standards
- Branding and target audience
- Message and language
- Time management
- Use of Information Communication Technologies
All teams will be provided with a folder containing resources that will be useful for the week. Additionally, students can bring the following optional items:
- Laptops or tablets. Care of these items will be the responsibility of the student.
- Pens and paper. These can be used to take notes and support the learning environment.
- As the challenge progresses, students may decide to bring additional resources or equipment from home/ school, specifically for their trade display stall promoting their business.
illuminate Education also recommends students to use their mobile phones to complete tasks and undertake research across the week, but this will be discussed with the schools to confirm student use.
Students are required to wear their school uniform from Monday to Thursday. On Friday (presentation day), students are recommended to wear neat attire relevant to their business idea, or can continue to wear their school uniform, but this will be discussed with the school as the program draws closer.
All sessions and tasks throughout the challenge are aligned with the Australian Curriculum. The challenge meets content descriptors for English, Mathematics, Science, Humanities and Social Sciences, Technologies, the Arts and Work Studies, as well as the Australian Blueprint for Career Development and Tasmania’s MyEducation framework. These are available upon request from illuminate Education directly.
Our focus is to make the process as easy as possible, and we will discuss the program closely with the relevant staff to ensure it is a success. However here is a quick list to help start the advance preparations;
- We’d like to have as many of your students participate in the program as possible, and this is why we are asking schools to let us know what week would suit them best.
- In terms of a venue, we require a large open space which we can use for students to hear presentations (with AV setup) with tables and chairs for students to complete group work. We can be flexible to work with the existing bookings in the school, or have students complete tasks across multiple rooms after hearing the presentations.
- We would like to ask students from nearby schools to participate, but this will be dependent on there still being available space after your students have registered for the program (which will be given preference) and if the school is happy for this to occur.
Outside of these questions, illuminate Education will coordinate the program, provide resources and speakers for the program to be a success.
With all of our staff either working in schools or qualified teachers, we recognise that sometimes students can choose not to engage in the content and have a number of adjustments we can make to the program. Facilitators may make amendments to the program to support students engagement, they could present scaffolded templates for students to help them complete the task required of them, or else will engage with the school about the student/s in question to ensure the best outcome can occur. We would like to see every student completes the program and gains some benefit, but recognise this cannot always be the case.
We know that schools have requirements around students participating in program such as this, and this will need to be taken into account. However illuminate Education does request permission for the following;
- Permission to collect student details (such as names, date of birth, career interest) to track the students in the program and provide details to partners where students have shown an interest in career areas.
- Permission for students to use Slack, which uses servers based overseas that will handle all of the student communication during the week. Note: there is no identifiable details when students communicate unless they identify themselves in the communication stream.
- Permission to take photos during the week and use these for our own purposes, including promoting the program.
Schools will be provided with the relevant permission forms for parents to sign and return to illuminate Education to complete the program, and questions can be directed through the school to illuminate Education.
There are so many definitions and assumptions around who and what an entrepreneur is! At illuminate Education, we recognise that is about skills that the individual has rather than an occupation, and with that in mind believe the following are three integral skills to be an entrepreneur;
- Self-motivated as they get their drive from within themselves rather than requiring external motivation. In this, we mean that individuals can step out and develop new ideas on their own rather than having someone else suggest and prompt them to do so, or that they can come up with their own pathway rather than needing someone else to be reminding them to do something.
- Self-confident as they are willing to back themselves to make something happen. In this, we mean that individuals will be confident enough to step out from the crowd and do something different if it needs to be done rather than follow the rest of the crowd.
- Resilient as they will have to handle being knocked back from time to time. In this, we mean that they can handle the hard situations (such as stress, tight deadlines, team breakdowns, etc.) and persevere towards the outcome in mind rather than giving up.
It is from this understanding that illuminate Education has designed the illuminate:nextgen Challenge and equips all students in these three areas across the program.
We’re always eager to hear from people who are interested in what we do – whether you are a school, a potential partner or someone who just wants to get on board with what we do. You can either get in touch with us directly below, or else use the form on this page and we’ll respond to you shortly;
Partners & Supporters
We’ve worked with some great organisations over the years inspiring students across Australia.