Just as our fore-teachers had moved from the abacus as a tool to teach to calculators through to the inter-web, so teachers in this day and computer age need to prepare students for the flexible job and study markets of tomorrow.

Young people graduating now, are likely to work in 17 different jobs – many yet unknown and un-knowable – across five careers, through a working life of 60 to 70 years. Artificial Intelligence and globalisation are expected to have massive impacts in terms of what we do and how we work, with the pace of change already underway only likely to increase, according to CEO of the Foundation for Young Australians, Jan Owen.

“We need to be equipping young people with a new set of skills so they can thrive in this new work order. It’s imperative that education incorporates the principles that will help them to establish themselves as the innovators, creators and entrepreneurs of the future.”

Secondary school teachers here in New Zealand are keen to support their students by teaching them what are known as 21st-century (21C). These are core competencies such as collaboration, digital literacy, critical thinking, and problem-solving considered essential for learning and employment for our current and future generations, explains co-founder and director of 21C Skills Lab Justine Munro.

“But not all secondary school teachers have the time, resources and training to do so.”

As a result, 21C Skills developed and launched a New Zealand-focussed secondary school programme Like A Boss (L.A.B.) last week.

L.A.B. is a 10-module programme a teacher from any discipline can teach Year 9 and 10 students how to design, create and run a people- or planet-focused business over the course of a school term, like – you guessed it – a boss.

“We developed it for schools that needed a vehicle to teach their students 21C skills. L.A.B. is immersive and fun project-based learning which gives the students real agency,” says Munro.

The L.A.B. Teacher Toolkit provides teachers with a clear and comprehensive “plug and play” learning guide as to how to set up a business/venture. It covers 21C skills and the future of work, entrepreneurship (including Māori entrepreneurship), idea generation, business for good, design thinking, creative marketing, building your financials, planning for success, business trading and celebration.

Each student is provided with $20 start-up capital to create, launch and operate their own business. Successful teams will be recognised at an awards event held annually.

L.A.B. is based on the Foundation for Young Australians’ $20 Boss programme, where 27,750 students in over 500 secondary schools have participated in just three years.

“Australian projects have included two indigenous students in Alice Springs developing their business – Street Basketball Association (SBA). They combined their love of basketball with helping people. It meant kids of all ethnicities could get a ball from SBA and play in a local basketball competition. Another project was Barkalicious where students baked chopped liver dog treats to sell.”

While there are other entrepreneurial programmes available to secondary schools in New Zealand, they are generally aimed at some students in a limited number of subjects such as IT and business studies classes. The difference with L.A.B., Munro explains, is that it can be applied to all subjects and has been designed with all students in mind.

“In the future, all of our students will need 21C skills. By mapping L.A.B. to the New Zealand curriculum, the programme allows any teacher to tick a whole lot of boxes at once, and we’ve made it very easy, and fun, to operate.”

One of the modules and an essential part of L.A.B. is on social enterprise looking at global competition and what makes a business good for the planet.

“With teachers learning alongside them and young Kiwi role models to inspire them, this course allows students to make a difference in and outside of the classroom with its focus on sustainability.”

Two of the role models are social entrepreneurs Kendall Flutey of Banqer and Levi Armstrong of Patu Aotearoa. As part of L.A.B. they share their experience of running a social enterprise with students – fronting L.A.B. learning videos, hosting the L.A.B Awards, and sharing insights on social media.

According to Flutey, L.A.B. is a great way for students to be exposed to the skills they’re going to need to thrive in the future.

“The world and workforce of the future is changing so quickly! It requires a new set of skills over and above what I was taught at school. By embracing this future and jumping into something like L.A.B. students will start preparing for the dynamic future which they’ll be a core part of,” says Flutey.

“L.A.B. is a terrific way to bridge the gap between school teaching and real world experience as it allows business people from the community to share their experience with the students as business coaches,” says Munro.


  1. Nothing wrong with students learning business skills, however there is no such thing as 21st C skills, just a myth. Cognitive science has shown clearly that critical thinking, problem solving are domain specific skills – that is they develop within and depend on specific subject knowledge, and are not generic skills that can be taught. Interesting to note that in the first part of the 20th C, educators were desperately worried how they could equip students with skills for that century. The best way to equip students for the future is to prepare them with the best knowledge we have today.


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