Entrepreneurship helps students prepare for the future of work

By Adam Van Dyck, COO, Slingshot Accelerator

What Lies Ahead?

When current students graduate they will enter a working world where employees under the age of 25 will change jobs every 2 years. The casualisation of Australia’s workforce will see a continued shift towards freelance contracting and workers will find themselves underemployed and unemployed for longer periods.

Universities recognise the need to equip students with the skills and resilience to navigate the uncertainty of the future working landscape.

One of the strategies they are adopting is to supplement traditional bachelor degree courses with units specifically focused on Entrepreneurship and Innovation.

Integrated Entrepreneurship at University of Newcastle

The University of Newcastle (UoN) has recently introduced entrepreneurship and innovation into traditional education programs through their STAR4000 “Innovation, Startups and Entrepreneurship” course. The course is underpinned by the “Accelerated by Slingshot” entrepreneurship curriculum and aims to provide students with skills in entrepreneurship and understanding the key elements of business creation, providing pathways for innovation and future self employment. It’s a 10 unit, single semester course and, importantly, can be integrated as a “capstone” course in any existing bachelors degree.

How is it different?

Star4000 is not taught by academics, but rather experienced entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, futurists, business strategists, and corporate leaders from Australia and overseas.

Mark Pesce

Whilst it satisfies all the requirements of a typical “for-credit” course, it is completely different in structure, content and delivery. The course combines an initial 4-day immersive bootcamp with a fortnightly lecture program across the semester and activity based assessments.

Cross-faculty, activity based learning

Star4000 is driven by activity based learning, rather than the traditional “chalk and talk” teaching methodology. In the first days of the program, students from different faculties form teams and develop new business ideas. They then apply the principles developed and taught by Ash Maurya, New York Times bestselling author and creator of the Lean Canvas, to define and validate their business model.

Over the following weeks students identify their riskiest assumptions and systematically go about de-risking their business by talking to customers to validate (or invalidate) these assumptions. The process teaches students to focus on building a business that solves a specific problem, rather than the typical approach where entrepreneurs build an exciting product or solution (often at great expense) and then try to find customers to buy it.



The program begins with a 4 day immersive bootcamp where guest speakers motivate students and start the process of developing a new business idea. Tim Fung –  Founder & CEO of AirTasker, Jane Huxley – Managing Director of Pandora and Mark Pesce – Futurist get things rolling on an exciting and engaging first day.

Marcus Westbury, Author of Creating Cities, opens day 2 with a presentation on Social Entrepreneurship. Pivotal labs then helps the teams develop business ideas and then select the most compelling business to work on for the remainder of the semester.

On days 3 and 4, Ash Maurya, teaches the students how to succinctly explain their business model using the Lean Canvas and how to go about validating their business model to avoid building a product that no-one wants.


Bootcamp is rounded out by a fireside chat with Ash and a panel of successful entrepreneurs.

Fireside chat


The remainder of the course is a series of lectures and masterclasses from entrepreneurs and other subject matter experts.

  • Building a product customers want – Cliff Obrecht – Founder, Canva
  • Developing growth and channels to market – Andrew Campbell – Founder, GoCatch
  • Building a strong brand and influencing your customers behaviour – Adam Ferrier – Consumer Psychologist
  • Pitching your business idea – Craig Lambert – Founder, Slingshot
  • Crowd funding your business and Raising capital for your startup – Pozible and Elaine Stead -Investment Director, Blue Sky Ventures
  • IP and its protection – Shannon Platt – Head of IP, Sparke Helmore Lawyers

Activity Based Assessment

Gone are the traditional assignment and exam assessments. Instead, students must hit the pavement and talk to customers to refine their business model.

Lean Canvases are assessed by Trent Bagnall – Founder of Slingshot Accelerator. The course culminates in students pitching their final business model to academics, entrepreneurs and peers.

Survival Skills for Graduates

By integrating innovation and entrepreneurship courses into traditional degrees, Universities like UoN are equipping students for the Future of Work. Of course, not all students will go on to be entrepreneurs and build billion-dollar businesses, but the underlying fundamentals of innovative thinking, entrepreneurship and lean startup methodology will help them to survive and thrive in the Future of Work in whatever career path they follow.

Click image below to watch the Star4000 video 

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