Academy says young people are the key to future innovation and well being creating solutions to world problems

Claudette RizziSouth Western Times
The Innovation Academy is an organisation aiming to provide face-to-face programs open to Year 10 to 12 students from across the South West region.
Camera IconThe Innovation Academy is an organisation aiming to provide face-to-face programs open to Year 10 to 12 students from across the South West region. Credit: Supplied

A local organisation aims to provide programs to Year 10 to 12 students from across the South West to involve them in problem solving current challenges in the community.

The Innovation Academy was formed two years ago through Manea Senior College and the Education Department of WA, with collaboration with the Dolphin Discovery Centre, South West schools, industries and community organisations.

Throughout the year students will be involved in a number of planning sessions with industries and community organisations to utilise the Design Thinking Process to understand a local issue.

Through each step of the process, empathising, defining, prototyping and testing, students will use their knowledge, skills and ideas to develop viable, sustainable solutions to meet the needs of the industry and community organisation.

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This is done while also addressing the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, and creating positive change for our community and environment.

Founders Lynette Hillier and Michele Watson highlighted the fact that students were not expected to solve the problem but work towards solutions and future-focused strategies to combat the challenge presented and close the gap between what current education provides and industry needs.

Ms Hillier said “It’s not a silly school project, it’s about real life, solving current issues, trying to meet the needs of all those involved”.

“Secondary school needs to be made more relevant to the real world creating meaningful pathways for young people to engage,” they said.

The Innovation Academy runs all year and allows students to meet and collaborate for one full day in term one, two full days in both term two and three, followed by a final pitch presentation in late September.

In 2023 the group partnered with seven South West Schools including Australind Senior High school, Bunbury Catholic College, Bunbury Senior High School, Busselton Senior High School, Dalyellup College, Donnybrook District High, and Manea Senior College.

Benefits for organisations and students include using a youth perspective to work on challenges and creating a platform to raise awareness and forge partnerships to better resolve problems.

The community organisations are required to present challenges for students to address with a solution based approach and mentor the students to share their ideas.

The time requirement is eight hours throughout the year including any email correspondence required.

The next Innovation Academy event will be held on March 18, where students and industry will meet and present their topics.

Topics that may require an innovative solution include attracting young people to volunteering, housing solutions, engaging with culturally and linguistically diverse groups and caring for the environment.

The Innovation Academy was piloted last year here in the South West to develop solutions to problems by connecting students and industry mentors and aims to get as many businesses involved as possible.

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