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Students with special educational needs learning entrepreneurship

The SENsationalStem project encourages secondary school students with needs for special support to study, to believe in their own skills and to find their place in the future labor market

Published : 17.03.2022

Young people may have learning difficulties. For example, in reading, writing or perceiving, and other different psychological factors. The challenges of activities and attention can be reflected in learning in many different ways. Special support is provided in vocational training, when students need long term and regular learning and study support due to a learning disability, illness or any other reason. 

The SENsationalStem project encourages secondary school students with needs for special support to study, to believe in their own skills and to find their place in the future labor market in Finland, Estonia and Latvia.

SEN-students finding their special skills

The project supports to develop an entrepreneurship related study module, an Entrepreneur program in cooperation with the Young Entrepreneurship Association. The aim is to support young people in identifying their own entrepreneur skills and attitudes. It also helps in identifying employment opportunities.

Since the spring of 2021, about 80 young people under the age of 18 from Finland, Estonia and Latvia have been working online on their innovative business ideas in cross border teams based on their strengths and interests. These self-generated business ideas of the students were combined with an interest in the well-being of people, animals and the environment.

Face to Face Bootcamp 

Imagine, you’re a 16-year-old working on a business idea for over a year, online on Teams, with people you haven’t met in person. It’s been a challenging year as online platforms can be limiting team trust and networking.

In August 2021, as the restrictions eased, we had an opportunity to have an event in person for students from Finland. The face to face event gave an opportunity to interact and made it exciting to work together and form bonds. Teachers and mentors also attended the event, which gave the students the opportunity to meet their mentors and discuss their business ideas face to face. 

At the start of the event we divided the students into smaller groups to attend workshops on different themes. One theme was improv games by Q-teatteri. The drama worked well and made it easier for the students to open up.

After working on their business ideas and the workshops, the groups then proceeded to watch a movie. Peruna, is a Finnish comedy movie that takes you through the different stages of entrepreneurship and gives an overview about the journey of entrepreneurship. The movie reflects the different stages from idea to execution to team building and funding and covered the entire journey, but with comedy elements.  This was definitely a fun way to learn about the entrepreneurial world. 

The pandemic has resulted in a spurt of individuals having to deal with their mental health. While planning the face to face event special thought was given to introduce various activities which could gauge the mood and expertise of the participating students. We wanted students from different schools to interact and also be inspired by other young entrepreneurs who have established their own business. 

This was a positive approach as the students had been shy while developing their business ideas on the online platform. The teachers played an active role to encourage the students to interact with other participants and to mingle with their team members.  The face to face bootcamp seemed to help the students in team building, to feel positive about entrepreneurship and to move ahead more confidently. When asked, the students felt motivated, excited and happy. 

The SENsationalSTEM project funded by Interreg Central Baltic aims to increase the general wellbeing of young people with special educational needs (SEN) in the context of entrepreneurship education.

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