The Life: A new breed of entrepreneurs -young students -is teaming up with the likes of Emirates Palace, Etihad Airways and Al Futtaim Carillion. Here is how they have transformed school-based projects into Emirate-wide business campaigns.
Viable schools of thought in UAE
Educators in the Emirates are going to new lengths to transform students such as Stefanie Kinnear and Cameron Oliver into budding entrepreneurs.
Stefanie's programme for recycling old printer cartridges has already been embraced by Etihad Airways, Emirates Palace and Al-Futtaim Carillion.
Meanwhile, Cameron's public service campaign to prevent littering and the subsequent killing of camels helped him become the first child to win the prestigious Abu Dhabi Award for building a greater sense of community and social welfare within the Emirates. Cameron was just 12 and in Grade 5 when he developed his idea.
The collective push to instil the skills for launching a business comes as entrepreneurial education becomes a bigger focus in younger grades within the region. "There's been a big push to encourage entrepreneurship within all of our students, because we're finding students are leaving school with lots of qualifications but not much of an idea of where they want to go," says Matthew Bentley, the faculty leader for business studies and economics at Dubai British School. "If we teach entrepreneurship well, they can leave school with a much more rounded education and have more options."
Some students at Dubai British School recently met with the marketing team at Ferrari World Abu Dhabi to discuss how everything from fluctuating currencies to the recent recession has affected local businesses. Another session focused on Emirates Airline and the training schemes its human resources department uses to keep employees motivated.
Nikita Potton, who is in Year 13 at Dubai British School, says she had never studied business until she joined the institution about 18 months ago. One of her course units required her to organise an event, which led her to stage a talent show. But this wasn't your typical after-school special in a school gymnasium. Nikita negotiated with managers at the Mall of the Emirates until she booked a theatre big enough to fit the 350 or so people who eventually turned up for the show. Once the event's costs were subtracted, she says, the remaining profit of just under Dh10,000 (US$2,720) was donated to the Dubai Autism Centre. Before the event, Ms Potton says she had expected to raise only one-tenth of that amount.
Stefanie and Cameron each developed their own projects while studying at Raha International School in Abu Dhabi, which also bakes business concepts into class curriculums. Students in levels as low as Grade 4 learn how businesses operate and even put their knowledge to use by setting up a shop during a school "souq day". Real-life educational opportunities such as these are "very relevant to the regional business community", says David Taylor, the co-ordinator for the primary years programme at Raha International School. As educators, he adds, "we should respect what's relevant to students here in Abu Dhabi".
The initiatives aren't without their challenges, however. Cameron has had to rely on support from the Bank of Mum and Dad to fund his campaign to save camels. And at Dh2 for each of the 2,000 stickers that he gives out during every school tour he makes, not to mention the boxes full of Dh20 caps and Dh35 T-shirts, it all adds up.
Still, Cameron, who is now 14, has ambitions to get his campaign's logo plastered on taxi bumpers throughout the UAE, as well as splashed across giant advertising billboards. "That's where the sponsorship comes in," he says, noting he is now going to start approaching companies for financial support. His goal, ultimately, is to keep his campaign alive "until the camels stop dying".