A comprehensive study of MindFuel’s Tech Futures Challenge alumni reveals that investment into youth innovation programming leads to economic, entrepreneurial, and social progress outcomes
Calgary – June 6, 2023 – MindFuel, in partnership with Genome Alberta, has released a study, the first of its kind, that explores the impact of biotech and innovation programing on careers and academic pursuits of young Canadians. Surveying Alberta alumni from MindFuel’s Tech Futures Challenge (TFC) program, the study provides insights into supporting Canadian youth (high school through undergraduate) in biotech innovation skills development, academic and career pursuits, and social progress indicators, each of which are critical to economic diversification and growth.
Study findings indicate the importance of investing in youth innovation programming to support a diverse next generation of Canadian leaders in biotechnology and other STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) areas of emerging technology practice. Making investments during the formative years of youth development equips students with the technical skills necessary to succeed in the world of innovation and technology, but also instills important employment skills such as team collaboration, communication, and critical thinking.
Highlights from the study include:
- An overwhelming number (75 per cent) felt that TFC had a positive impact on their learning and contributed to their career successes in the innovation sector, noting specifically that the mentor community, workshop training and competition experiences were invaluable contributions towards their development.
- Respondents come from highly diverse backgrounds based on race and sexual orientation information, suggesting TFC helps grow an open, inclusive innovation community.
- Gender representation (46 per cent female, 52 per cent male) was similar to that from Canadian Census data (M-52 per cent; F-48 per cent), demonstrating an important shift to a more gender-balanced innovation community through increased female representation.
- More than 91 per cent of respondents have remained in Alberta/Canada, showcasing the potential to avoid “brain-drain” and retain trained, talented youth to drive future innovation in Canada.
- Along with being entrepreneurs and technologists, more than 20 per cent of respondents have started companies due to the innovation skillset they developed through the program.
- About 40 per cent of participants now continue to use molecular biology skills in their current roles and have largely maintained careers in technology, academia, health care and education.
“MindFuel is committed to empowering the next generation of innovators, with a focus on making the innovation space accessible to everyone,” says Cassy Weber, CEO of MindFuel. “Our programs provide a unique opportunity for female, Indigenous, newcomers, racialized, LGBTQIA+ and economically disadvantaged youth to gain access to skills development and innovation practice, critical to fostering a diverse and inclusive innovation landscape in Canada.”
“We are proud to partner with MindFuel in empowering students and building the biotech and synthetic biology talent pool which is critical to Alberta’s, and Canada’s, innovation future,” says Dr. David Bailey, President and CEO of Genome Alberta. “We now see how investing in our youth tracks from education programming through to career choices that result in real-world solutions generated by Alberta’s biotech professionals.”
“We know that when youth are given the challenge to innovate a solution to a real-world problem, and then are supported with skills training, mentor network access and development, and project funding, they literally begin to innovate,” adds Weber. “Genome Alberta, and our many other partners understand this model and together, we’re making a big impact in economic contributions and social progress.”
The study was completed as a capstone to end MindFuel’s 100 Days of Youth Innovation celebration, which showcased outstanding TFC youth projects from over the last 10 years in areas such as digital literacy and coding, robotics, artificial intelligence and machine learning, synthetic biology, nanotechnology, and computational solutions. The projects are extracurricular, developed by teams of seven to ten individuals who each dedicate 100 to 400 hours of innovation learning each year. Participants include teams in grades 7–12 and self-organized post-secondary teams from Alberta, British Columbia, Ontario and Yukon.
A series of whitepapers will be released in the coming months, which will focus on key areas of findings within the study. To receive a full copy of the study or to receive white papers, please email email@example.com.
The study was conducted by DCL Consulting, on behalf of MindFuel and GenomeAlberta, and was made possible by funding from ATB Financial.
The MindFuel Foundation is a registered charitable organization committed to creating youth innovation talent. Since 1990, we have been developing and distributing captivating, high-quality, 21st century programs that ignite a passion for science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) innovation in students of all ages. The programs are technology based and technology infused, developed to serve both in-class and extracurricular learning. To date, MindFuel has invested over $120M into Canada’s innovation ecosystem in over 1,600 communities. It serves underrepresented youth populations, including Indigenous students, females in STEM, economically disadvantaged youth, remote/rural students, racialized youth, and newcomers to Canada.
MindFuel also delivers eLearning programming through its wholly owned subsidiary, Wonderville Enterprises Ltd., which reaches hundreds of thousands of teachers, students, and parents each year in every province and territory, supporting over 600,000 learning sessions annually in Canada, and over 6,000,000 globally. Since inception, MindFuel has delivered over 147,000,000 learning sessions in over 190 countries with its online STEM programs.
For more information on programming, please visit mindfuel.ca.
About Genome Alberta
Genome Alberta is working towards a better future through genomics innovation. Our mission is to promote and support genomics solutions for end-user needs to create value and investment opportunities through excellent science, technology and application development, collaborations, and partnerships. We work on priority areas in health, agriculture, environment & energy, forestry and technology development, driving growth across sectors while helping to develop Alberta’s next generation of talented innovators.
As a publicly funded, not-for-profit corporation with offices in Calgary and Edmonton, Genome Alberta initiates, funds and manages projects around the province and participates in a variety of other initiatives across the country. The discoveries arising from Genome Alberta research programs are realized through partnerships with provincial academic institutions, industry, government agencies and departments, and other regional, national and international organizations.
For more information on Genome Alberta, please visit genomealberta.ca.
For Genome Alberta
Images from the Tech Futures Challenge Prototype Showcase.