11/18/2016 06:43 EST | Updated 11/18/2016 06:43 EST

Canada Desperately Needs Education Innovation

Hero Images via Getty Images
High school teacher and student assembling computer

In the past 40 years what we've taught our middle and high-school students has remained relatively the same and hasn't been keeping pace with the evolving and modernizing job market. Yes, we have many strengths when it comes to talent and diversity, and there have been efforts in the classroom to improve tech, online learning, and STEM courses to better prepare youth for what lies ahead in post-secondary and the job market. However, a key ingredient to our future generation's success is missing from the majority of our K-12 classrooms -- entrepreneurial and innovative education.

A survey conducted by Bank of Montreal states that 46 per cent of Canadian post-secondary students would like to open their own business after graduation, yet we don't have mandatory curriculum or programming across the country to support this. Too many young, fresh and creative minds are leaving school with no entrepreneurial skills or innovative mindsets.

We're failing students by focusing mainly on subjects that lead to traditional career paths. Transforming our K-12 schools' curriculum to the needs of our changing global economy is necessary if we want to wholly support the students who dream of starting their own company.

Introducing entrepreneurial practices in all levels of schooling is the best way to equip youth with the right hard and soft skills for the labour market. Beyond developing critical thinking and problem solving skills, students should gain experience in starting and managing their own business, experience what it's like to think ambitiously and push the status quo, graduate feeling motivated and ready to add value to society.

We know that it's best to learn skills at a young age, and if these experiences start early, the skills gained from them will only become stronger with time. This concept is no different when it comes to entrepreneurship and innovation education.

We need youth to think of entrepreneurship as a career option long before reaching post-secondary. Scandinavian countries are at the forefront of this shift, with entrepreneurship and innovation taught at every education level and as a cross-curricular skill rather than a stand-alone course. Closer to home, Canadian teachers can cultivate that mindset by leveraging the abundance of existing programs to teach entrepreneurship skills and schools should encourage this.

For example, Entrepreneurial Adventure, currently running in Ontario, Alberta, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia is a curriculum-linked program that involves students working with their teacher and a business advisor to develop their own business. A Business of Our Own by Junior Achievement Canada is a program available in Ontario, Prince Edward Island and Manitoba for grades three through six that uses experiential learning and game-based technology to engage students while learning concepts of management, finance, production and marketing.

Clearly, we aren't lacking the framework, but a streamlined approach of how to lay the foundation for entrepreneurship and innovation across the country. Key players, from government to school boards to private sector to veteran entrepreneurs, need to lead the charge and drive changes to curriculum, working with teachers to adopt collaborative work practices and encourage students to take what they learn and put it into practice. Another way to introduce entrepreneurship in our schools is to establish maker spaces -- physical spaces where students can get together to create, build and learn -- or to initiate an entrepreneur in residence program to support students who have questions or ideas that they want to bring forward to someone with personal experience.

Integrating extracurricular programs can also help students who are interested in intensive programming. Ryerson University's Basecamp is an educational program that provides high school students with the education, access to mentorship and resources from the DMZ and Ryerson community to help them become successful entrepreneurs and innovators. ​Students apply and if accepted, they ​leave with a startup. ​Access to this learning is key, or we run the risk of great ideas and success going unrealized.

For example, Harsh Shah, the CEO of SpitStrips spent his summer at the DMZ's Basecamp putting the finishing touches on his business plan. After a classmate's tragic passing at the hands of a drunk driver, a group of students created SpitStrips as a way to help combat this rampant issue with a convenient, accurate and portable way to test blood alcohol content. At Basecamp, Harsh was able to gain access to mentorship and resources from the DMZ and Ryerson that might have otherwise held up their plan. After completing the program, SpitStrips is well on its way to the manufacturing stage and creating partnerships with post-secondary schools for promotion and distribution.

Ryerson University introduced Zone Learning, built off the success of the DMZ, as a unique form of experiential learning where teaching and learning are rooted in startup and social change models and impactful ideas are brought from concept to viable prototypes. Students from business to engineering to arts receive the kind of support to create, develop and launch ideas that have a huge potential to positively impact society. Ryerson's 11 domain-specific zones are dedicated communities for exploring entrepreneurship and social innovations, and it's Ryerson's way of giving entrepreneurial minds the best shot at success.

The time is now for young people to learn about entrepreneurship and innovation, build the foundation of their future and take charge of their career trajectory, in a space where they spend their days - school. Students should have the opportunity to apply new ways of thinking to transform and impact the world. My hope is really quite simple.

Have young people introduced to entrepreneurship and innovation during their most impressionable years, lead these promising young minds to be entrepreneurial, help provide jobs and boost employment rates, contribute to our knowledge-based economy and overall social and economic well-being. It's our responsibility as entrepreneurs and leaders to accelerate innovative and creative thinking to bring great ideas to reality.

Follow HuffPost Canada Blogs on Facebook