“In my day…” has been the precursor to many a lecture about the struggles and hardships the previous generations had to face. As a member of Generation Y, these are words I’m all too familiar with. I’ve heard tales of a world without Internet, a world where information wasn’t seconds away: a world I only had to live in for a brief portion of my life. I’ve had to listen, but as I enter a new stage in life, the subsequent Generation Z does as well. Now, as I step up to the plate of an age-old tradition of lectures and guilt, I have one story to bestow: In my day, we didn’t have entrepreneurship education.

Entrepreneurship has always been alive and well—just not in an academic sense. Throughout my high school career, I was taught to find my place in a pre-existing ecosystem; to find which career best suited me. My classmates and I strived for structure because that’s what we were comfortable with; that’s all we knew. My life’s journey then took me to university. My world collapsed. The emphasis was on independence, and my structure was gone.

In academia, we had guidelines set by our teachers; one would then transition to a career with more guidelines, now set by corporate culture and the company’s mission. Taught to paint inside the lines, we could pick the colour but not the image.

As I was coping with the new academic environment I was developing, I was becoming comfortable with the creative freedom I had been given. Before I knew it, I was creating my own space and my own way of doing things. Suddenly I was acting and thinking like an entrepreneur.

The creative and entrepreneurial space my mind had travelled to has become the norm for many of today’s youth. A wonderful thing happened as Generation Y grew up: a surge of readily available information and technology enabled accessible tools for individuals who had an idea and wanted to turn that into a business. With this came a generation of empowered individuals who are capable of launching and leading businesses that challenge boundaries, which allows them to pursue work they love.

Entrepreneurship itself has broken free of the limited context in which it once existed. Entrepreneurial thinking has meaningful applications outside of the startup world. An entrepreneur has evolved to become a person who sees problems as opportunities, creates their own place, thinks critically and isn’t afraid to operate outside of a structured environment. This skill set provides the tools to build a new commercial or entrepreneurial venture, or excel at a project in work or school. Entrepreneurship is a deep-level skill that crosses many disciplines, and it can be learned. Like any discipline, with the right information and practice, it can be mastered.

Today, the pace of change in our economy depends on real innovation, a new mindset that embraces uncertainty, and a willingness to work hard for success. But today’s young people have an abundance of tools and resources available to help them thrive, and they understand that the most important skill of all is the ability to acquire new ones. The MaRS Future Leaders Summer Bootcamp, and similar programs, will help teens learn and master the skills every good entrepreneur should have. Then, when they’re ready, students can pursue avenues such as Ontario’s Summer Company program and apply for grants to fund their venture.

In my day we really weren’t taught about entrepreneurship. Thankfully, it’s a new day filled with bright young students who finally have the tools and programs to make their ideas and innovations a reality. To the youth of today: Create your dream job and, as Donald Trump once said, “As long as you’re going to be thinking anyway, think big.”

MaRS Future Leaders

MaRS Future Leaders is a unique, hands-on program supported by one-on-one mentors, successful entrepreneurs and dynamic teachers. During the week-long summer session (July 21–25), students aged 13–15 and 16–18 will invent and test an original business idea, learn skills critical to future success and pitch their ideas for a chance to win one of two $1,000 cash prizes. Know a student who’d like to test-drive entrepreneurship? Check out MaRS Future Leaders and apply now!

Ben McCartney

Ben was exposed to business and technology at an early age; quickly learning to save his allowance for motherboards and graphic cards. A resident of midtown Toronto, he is studying Business Technology Management at Ryerson University. See more…