Acorn Academy: Creating Tomorrow’s Entrepreneurs

Last Tuesday, I was invited to the launch of Aspirations Academies Trust EcoHack challenge at TechCity College. They rolled out an initiative last September to provide students with real-world working skills as part of the curriculum. It’s a 10-week project in partnership with a small number of companies where some young people are challenged to develop a game with Bossa Studios or a computation-thinking specialist Primary school that open its doors in 2017 with Architecture Initiative. The EcoHack project, which we’re supporting, aims to shift mindsets toward energy efficiency at an early age; not just consciously thinking about it but practicing it. The students are challenged with developing an interactive platform for children aged 5–7 within their own school environment.

Acorn Aspirations are working alongside Almach Energy and Voltaware to help the students understand existing and future environment issues, interpret raw behavioural data on energy consumption and take their concepts from ideation to working prototype. The winning idea will be turned into an app and will be launched in schools across the country. Turning dry data into something visually interesting, informative and interactive for such young minds is no mean feat but who better to rise to the challenge than those who were at that stage of life not so long ago.

Context based learning is slowly but surely creeping into the education system and we at Acorn Aspirations embrace this. I certainly wish such opportunities existed in my day. Filing and photocopying in an office for a week was as good as it got for me. However, the reality for today’s 16–24 year olds is that more than one million are currently unemployed in the UK. With an estimated 576,754 A Level and BTEC students leaving colleges and sixth form next year, the job hunting market can only get more competitive. Yet, the flip side of that coin is the chronic skills shortage gap in the UK. Recent research by O2 suggests the UK will need to fill 766,000 new digital jobs by 2020 and train almost 2.3m digitally skilled workers to meet this demand. The education system alone is simply not equipped nor positioned to fill this gap in 4 years.

This is where the Acorn Aspirations vision comes in. Having just been accepted into Google Launchpad Accelerator here in London, we are developing Acorn Academy — an online learning platform for 16 -19 year olds to learn entrepreneurship and technology related skills. The fact remains, not everyone will want to go University, particularly with the costs now involved. And the fact that some school leavers choose an academic route and some not should not determine their life or opportunity chances. Everyone has their part to play. Academia is certainly not a guarantee of business savviness or employability; mindset and skills, however, are.

We want to arm post 16+ teenagers with real-world skills through online learning followed by internships, work experience and apprenticeships through our employer network to apply those skills. London tech companies offer the lowest number of apprenticeships in comparison with other industries — we want to be part of the solution to change that trend. We want to ensure school leavers have the skills to be Product Managers, UX Designers, Games Developers, Growth Hackers, DevOps, Software Developers, Financial Directors, Operations Managers or whatever is required to power the UK’s fast growing digital economy.

Join us if you want to help us develop the next generation of entrepreneurs and increase the employability of your team of tomorrow. Sign up to help us create online courses by entrepreneurs and daily doers of tech related jobs at

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Elena Sinel

Founder and CEO, Acorn Aspirations — an early stage edtech start-up on a mission to equip young people with skills of tomorrow.

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