Fostering a collaborative, diverse and inclusive entrepreneurial community – understanding development needs of entrepreneurs with opportunities for TAFEs and VET

TDA Convention 2022 Presentation 16.11.22 by Wendy Perry

Welcome to Radelaide and there is so much on as this week is Global Entrepreneurship Week and Startup Week in South Australia.

Now, can you imagine doing a learning needs analysis over years with thousands of clients or students?

And when you are dealing with entrepreneurs and founders, sole traders and self-employed people, you’ll hear courageous stories almost every day.

Switch Start Scale

As the Entrepreneurship Facilitator (EF) for Adelaide over the past 3.5 years and having won the contract from the Department of Employment and Workplace Relations (DEWR) for another 3 years, plus having picked up an additional regional South Australian contract for Self-Employment Assistance via Sea to Valley Startups this provides unique insight into learning and development needs plus many opportunities for collaboration.


The stats for Switch Start Scale includes 1800+ individual clients, 8 100+ referrals, and 12 100+ people that have come to events – it is an amazing data set to absorb and understand.

There are 23 Entrepreneurship Facilitators around Australia (funded by DEWR) and next week is EntrepreneurFEST with around 25 online events happening where EFs are running different topics in free sessions.  For example, Intro to the Startup Scene & Entrepreneurial Ecosystem in Australia, and Pitching in Practice – Conversations, Networking, Presentations & On Stage.


Over the 3 years from 2019-2021, a total of 1,200 individual entrepreneurs were supported with a range of facilitation services, with over half being mature age persons (53%, average age 46 years), and predominantly female (72%).  This is in contrast to the 2021 South Australia Startup Report (SA Government, 2021), who reported that of the 342 South Australian start-ups identified in 2021, 80% were started by males and 20% by females.

The report also said the highest number of founders were people in the 40-49 year age group which aligns there the average age of Switch Start Scale clients was 46 years, and just over half were matured-aged (53%).

Of new comprehensive Switch Start Scale clients who provided demographic information, 53% were from a Cultural and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) background, and 25% were unemployed.  These trends were consistent across the 3 years.


There are many barriers to overcome when it comes to working on a business idea, startup or scaleup.

Negotiating the cross over between business and personal, managing energy, mental health and motivation, dealing with setbacks and changes that are outside of your control.  It can be overwhelming, relentless, and stressful.

The top 3 barriers perceived to being a successful entrepreneur were consistently across the 3 years; a lack of business experience, poor literacy (which was consistent with 53% of clients being from Culturally and Linguistically Diverse backgrounds), and a lack of knowledge of where to get support.

Some of the most popular events were:

  • Switch Start Scale Awards
  • How to Build Your Network and Profile on LinkedIn webinar
  • Reignite SA – Celebrate Business Birthdays, Launches and Rebranding
  • Launch Party for South Australian Businesses with Female Founders
  • Pitch Night
  • Opportunities in the Care Sector for Practitioners, Sole Traders & Startups

Changes in South Australia

And there have been many shifts in the entrepreneurial and startup ecosystem, specifically with women’s involvement and people from culturally diverse backgrounds.  The ecosystem is very collaborative and innovative, probably one of the most highly networked cities in Australia – providing outstanding examples of partnerships and referrals of clients, where the VET sector, and TAFEs in particular could play more of a role.  For example turning up at the many events that are run and you don’t need to wait for an invitation, just come along.

Who is involved?

Economic development practitioners and employment facilitators, entrepreneurs and innovators, government, higher education providers, Unis and schools, coworking spaces (which could be TAFE facilities), investors, incubators and accelerators.

Opportunities for TAFEs and VET

There are many more opportunities for TAFE Institutes to get involved in the ecosystem, for example:

  1. Partnering on events and experiences – networking e.g. Where are self-employment, small business, startup & growth opportunities at Fat Controller; Launch of the Multicultural Entrepreneurs and Business Network; J Glow & Co First Birthday Celebrations + Switch Start Scale Networking
  2. Delegations (interstate and international) and innovation tours – Kangaroo Island, Adelaide Hills and Business History Tour
  3. Rapid product development say for microcredentials – supporting Meetups like the SA Development Professionals on Monday night with 100+ people; providing assessment only services and/or recognition of non-accredited coaching, mentoring, online courses and programs
  4. Services you could design for the current – next generation of employers like partnership with Tesla that CIT has; helping female founders scaling up
  5. Supporting social enterprises and regional communities (e.g. Regional Innovation Growth Hack) applying lean startup/business model canvas in a bootcamp style approach
  6. UN Sustainable Development Goals being integrated into teaching and learning as well as facilities like the new TAFE Queensland Gold Coast Robina campus
  7. Work placements and workbased projects for students and tapping into self-employed people with expertise as VET practitioners

A note of caution here – the Certificates III and IV in Entrepreneurship and New Business do not cut it as this is how you would have started a business 20 years ago so product innovation is needed!

And we need to growth hack the VET sector, applying an entrepreneurial mindset:

  1. 1 efficient and effective regulator
  2. 25% reduction of Registered Training Organisations (remove ghost RTOs and the bottom 20%)
  3. Microcredentials that can be used to test the appetite for new programs and products
  4. Structure of core skills, functional skills, industry essential and job specific skills that are develop in a way that means they can last around 5 years before needing updating.  A starting point would be to Growth Hack the existing database of units of competency so if you’d like to get involved in this activity then please email
  5. Streamlined industry advice because the map is messy right now – the suggested Industry Cluster model is not the answer an even thought the horse may have bolted this blog suggest an alternative structure with mega clusters based upon the structure of the economy and jobs, i.e. Essential; Enabling; Experience; Entrepreneurship and scaling up; Emerging growth areas.

Working with over 30 countries around the world via Workforce BluePrint, over the past 12 years some of the most rewarding work is impacting business owners to startup and scaleup, employing people in their communities and supporting their nation.

If you would like an intro to your local Entrepreneurship Facilitator or ecosystem then please feel free to get in touch and aside from links locally, there are many opportunities in international markets, in relation to entrepreneurship and innovation – so many opportunities to explore, thank you.

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