Nulkaba, NSW, 1 Nov 2019: At a luncheon held in the magnificent new Activate Centre at St Philip’s Christian College, Cessnock, leaders from across the regional spectrum gathered to support the launch of the St Philip’s Entrepreneurship Network. Before an audience graced by Mayor Bob Pynsent, the executives from the Cessnock Chamber of Commerce (such as Clint Ekert and Bronwyn Musgrove), and other educational and business leaders from the area, SPCCC’s Principal, Darren Cox, explained the need to develop alternative pathways for regional cohorts of students - the need for enhanced engagement, better preparation for life after school, and the ability to have real choices which help retain the brightest and the best in the region. SPCCC, he noted, was proud to extend yet again the Hub arrangement by which Alphacrucis brought its post-secondary expertise to bear upon a regional issue, so contributing to flourishing communities.
Principal Cox then introduced his speakers for the day: Lachlan, a young man just finishing his HSC this year, who was aspiring to enrol in an entrepreneurship program at the University of Sydney, Geoff Walker, a long-serving regional businessman, advisor and member of the Cessnock Chamber of Commerce, and Prof. Mark Hutchinson, Dean of the Faculty of Business, Arts, Social Sciences and Education at Alphacrucis College.
Mr Walker built on the very apt definitions of entrepreneurship which Lachlan introduced, speaking about how embedded entrepreneurship was to life for people in the country. An ‘entrepreneurship of necessity’ was born of the conditions of rural life, and their relationships to the city - Mr Walker’s parents were thus ‘entrepreneurs of necessity’, developing new ways of bringing water to waterless blocks, early approaches to self-funding real estate development, local processing plants, and the like. As a local radio presenter who has committed his tireless work in the community including work with the Nulkaba P&C Association and the Cessnock Chamber of Commerce, Geoff had followed in the footsteps of his family, achievements recognized early this year when he was named Cessnock Citizen of the Year. The skills embedded in the Alphacrucis Diploma of Business program were, Mr Walker said, precisely the skills which entrepreneurs did not always seek, but which (in his experience) they needed in order to survive and thrive. He was there, he said, to commend and support the program.
Professor Hutchinson described the intended program, and what it would do for the region. Embedded non-accredited, professional and school alternative pathway options would be connected to work-based learning and formal Diploma pathways for young people. The launch of an entrepreneurship hub at SPCC Cessnock came, he said, out of research into social capital, ie. the strength that aspirational networks of people bring to one another through the formation of communities of thought and action. Trust, good social networks, mentors, experience in well connected industry opportunities - all of these can be shown to improve the life opportunities of young people, as well as the socioeconomic standing of whole regions. The network being launched at SPCCC would provide young people with the opportunity to engage in more fulfilling, aligned and fruitful educational options, have a legup when they enter the workforce, and avoid much of the artificial stress and time wasting which comes with the normal matriculation pathways.
More importantly, Professor Hutchinson noted, however, was the fact that this network will act as a mechanism for channeling through the school’s large and growing network of parents and friends the very considerable resources which are available through the regional Chambers of Commerce, the RDA, government small business offices, and the like. SPCC Cessnock already has a widespread and very well-earned reputation for innovative and life-changing education - this is one more string to its bow, but one which will do more than just change individual lives. It will, among other very good efforts (some of which are headed by those in this room) help enrich the lives of the community and many who never join the school’s community.
Those present were asked to consider whether they could support the Network by becoming business mentors, providing space or instruction for entrepreneurial students, or even support the program financially. There was a warm and congratulatory response. In 2020, the Network will commence training mentors, building formal pathways, inserting business and entrepreneurship skills into the region, and the like. The school and AC would work with the Chambers of Commerce, in particular, to build the infrastructure for student work-integrated learning and cooperative startups. Students will choose options in April 2020, a number of pre-skilling events will occur in 2020, and formal teaching will commence in 2021.
For those interested in learning more about the St Philip’s Cessnock Entrepreneurship program, please contact: Rachel Brinks, School of Business, BASE, Alphacrucis College, at firstname.lastname@example.org.