Matt Pfahlert, the co-founder of Australian Center for Rural Entrepreneurship, exclaims that his journey of co-founding an organisation where Australian youth from rural communities can really develop transferable skills so that they can navigate a globalized workforce.
“I co-founded the organisation off the back of really feeling like Australia doesn’t value ideas in young people” Matt explains.
He mentions that government organisations need to see more value in these programs to have not for profits achieve their goals in making the Australian community better for the youth.
“I went to the US, Canada, Scotland and England and saw all the global experts that became my mentors and visited their operations and their communities. For me that was gaining the product knowledge and then figuring out a program that we could bring back to Australia”
Communities like Scotland and Canada have been integrating these processes into their schooling programs for the last 20 years, Australia is so far behind. ACRE’s mission is to build a thriving rural Australia through igniting entrepreneurship in young people and their community.
Matt says the issue at hand is more about how we pilot this program in Australia and scale it very quickly once there is more confidence built in the program. Australia has a real sense of urgency to develop the skills that young people need for their ideas to be activated.
“If young people in the rural community have an idea and the community bodies do not support their idea, one of two things will happen; they will either stay in the community and disengage or they will go to a different community or they will go to the city to activate their idea. At the end of it the rural community loses.”
What Matt found from bringing these programs back from Scotland and Canada is that these programs are highly sought after by all young people. So it does not matter if they are from the city or from rural areas or regional centers.
“People will often tell them why have a foolish idea when you could just go to university and get a real job”
In running these programs he also found that it is often those kids who are more creative and are good problem solvers and think about things differently that excel in this program.
“It made me think that if i was to ever have a career legacy it would be to create a way to start valuing young people and their ideas across rural and regional Australia to address the issue of rural decline”
As most rural communities are either stagnating or in decline the solution to that issue is activating the ideas of young people.
“We are in dire straits on how our current education system works! Young people are going to have to be prepared to negotiate and navigate multiple jobs and multiple careers, that is really going to be one of the drivers in pushing programs like ACRE ahead”
For Matt, it was about finding that business idea of scale that could fund an organisation. In 2012 Matt teamed up with Clayton Neil. Clayton comes from a tourism and events management background. Clayton made him realize that the region in North East Victoria has the potential to be one of the most successful destinations for cycle tourism in the Southern Hemisphere. So they decided to start ACRE and build the cycle tourism capacity of the region as a business and an income stream to fund their work in supporting young people.
Matt says that, having to run a not-for-profit and to always be on the lookout for funding is so much of a distraction, it keeps him from performing the mission he set himself out for.
Matt Pfahlert is one of the keynote speakers at the Youth Pathways to Further
Education & Employment conference commencing on the 16th of October 2018 at CQ Functions Melbourne. Matt will be sharing more ideas for not for profits and insights on his journey to pave youth pathways that are successful in the 21st century workforce.