Co-authored by: Aislinn Malszecki and Lauren Seymour

Today, through an array of educational programs, youth are better able to equip themselves with the practical, technical and leadership skills they need to start a business. Many of these programs are designed to foster young peoples’ innate curiosity and to give them a better understanding of how the world works as they move into adulthood.

One of the most common elements in youth entrepreneurship education programs is a focus on preparation. Preparation comes in many forms, but for an entrepreneur, at the most foundational level, preparation is being able to recognize business opportunities and act on them. With guidance from experienced entrepreneurs, this process can help young minds to see the world through a different lens and to find opportunities where others see problems (also known as opportunity recognition). This kind of preparation can also be applied to many other aspects of young peoples’ lives.

MaRS Future LeadersTo support this development, MaRS offers immersive and experiential activities for young people, ages 13 to 18, who are interested in learning about entrepreneurship and gaining hands-on experience. Part of an overall youth entrepreneurship strategy, the MaRS Future Leaders program is designed to support the development of opportunity recognition and other transferable skills.

The program strategy engages youth in three ways.

  1. Entrepreneurship boot camps: These week-long programs offer participants the chance to invent, test and pitch an original business idea, all while receiving one-on-one support from mentors, successful entrepreneurs and dynamic teachers. Boot camps will run during March Break, as well as in July and August of this year. Read about the last cohort’s experience here.
  2. Youth meet-ups: Located in the MaRS Centre, these sessions bring youth who are interested in entrepreneurship together to network and share ideas with their peers, as well as to hear from seasoned entrepreneurs.
  3. MaRS Discovery District tours: We have been arranging tours of the MaRS Centre with select groups of high school students in an effort to provide them with the inspiration that comes from being in a collaborative and multi-disciplinary environment. These students learn about the challenges and characteristics of successful entrepreneurs, and also attend a presentation on the topic of entrepreneurship as a career.

MaRS Future Leaders July 2013 cohort

Through all of these programs, students will learn a variety of transferable skills that are critical to their future success. As one boot camp student said: “It really helped improve my confidence and presentation skills.” Whether they go on to start their own business or not, they will continue to use and develop the skills they gained throughout their academic and career endeavours.

Youth have the drive and passion required to work hard and create something great. It is important to support their ambitions by providing resources and guidance wherever possible. Please share information about MaRS Future Leaders and any other youth entrepreneurship programs with the young people you know and help them become the leaders of tomorrow.

Learn more about the next MaRS Future Leaders session here.

Aislinn Malszecki

Aislinn is a strategist, designer and education producer for entrepreneurs that seek practical lessons to grow their startup companies.See more…