Gen Z calls for innovation to be taught in schools

New research findings show that Gen Z see innovation as a pathway out of COVID-19

Young Founders cohort

Wellington – 15 December 2021: A new study from Wellington’s innovation hub, Creative HQ, has found that an overwhelming majority (96%) of Gen Z believe that innovation should be taught in schools, with 77% of respondents viewing themselves as innovative.

Dr Colin Kennedy, Head of the School of Innovation at Wellington-based innovation hub Creative HQ, conducted a study of 150 Gen Z (aged 12-24) respondents in 20 countries across the globe to understand Gen Z attitudes to innovation, particularly in the era of COVID-19.

The study found that 89% of respondents believe innovation to be crucial to making the world around them better, with that number rising to 94% when asked about the role of innovation in responding to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

“In this complex time of volatility, it’s a statement of hope that Gen Z wants the tools of innovation embedded in their learning environment,” says Dr Kennedy. “Gen Z makes up a third of the global population, so their desire to be innovative is important as it indicates they crave the mindset and skillset to take on the problems around them.”

“At Creative HQ we run a series of programmes to help Gen Z develop innovation skills, including a Certificate in Applied Innovation, a Certificate in Innovation Delivery, and a Young Founders Incubator which supports Gen Z-aged founders to grow their own startups,” says Dr Kennedy. “It would be great to see programmes like this integrated into schools to complement existing entrepreneurial programmes.”

Recent law graduate and Creative HQ Innovation Coordinator Intern, Poppy Lance (aged 23), agrees with the findings of the study and says if she had her time at school again she would “absolutely” want to study innovation.

“I think the benefits of having an innovative mindset would have really impacted me academically and what paths I went down at university. I would have looked at my own strengths and thought about how I could apply them to a job,” she says.

“I think for our generation, there are a lot of issues that we’d like to fix that haven’t been dealt with before, but also we’re trying to solve problems that no other generation has ever dealt with.”

Ongoing lockdowns and uncertainty have negatively impacted Gen Z mental wellbeing, exacerbated by the largest educational disruption in modern history and a massive surge in youth unemployment. At the start of 2021, approximately 825 million Gen Z learners were affected due to school closures.

Research has also shown that Gen Z is acutely aware that it will have to pay higher taxes and carry greater levels of debt, despite young workers being the least likely group to have received financial support for lost jobs during the pandemic.

“Gen Z will feel the pain of COVID-19 throughout the majority of their lives. This research shows that innovation is a tool for them to create a better future for their generation,” says Dr Kennedy. “Right now, we need our younger generations to have hope and opportunities. Innovation can offer this to young people.”

In the study, Gen Z respondents were asked a series of questions to surface definitions and how they saw innovation in the world around them.

The most mentioned types of innovations, and what sectors they occurred in, were medical advancements & COVID-19 response, the internet and smartphones, environmental innovations such as agritech, electric vehicles including self-driving cars, community interventions and personal self-improvement.

Dr Kennedy was nominated by New Zealand at Expo 2020 to speak on reimaging innovation education and Gen Z attitudes towards innovation on a World Majlis panel as part of Expo 2020 Dubai’s Knowledge and Learning Focus Week at the World Expo 12-14 December in Dubai.

Panellists who joined him this week included prominent British historian Sir Anthony Seldon, the Bahraini Minister of Youth and Sport Affairs H.E. Aymen Tawfeeq Al Moayed, and Teach All CEO Wendy Kopp.

Read more about Dr Colin Kennedy’s (Creative HQ’s Head of Education) research here: Gen Z Research Paper

For more information please contact:
Ciara Craig
GM Engagement
021 450 209

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