Young Engineers: a franchise on a mission
More than a decade ago Amir Asor founded e2 Young Engineers, a school that affirms STEM * and engineering skills in children, using fun and practical learning methods, which are often missing in traditional schooling. In addition to finding an untapped opportunity in the market, Asor has managed to become one of the leaders of a new wave in the extracurricular education sector.
The impression his schools made on high profile visitors propelled Asor to the title “Entrepreneur of the Year ( Youth Business International Entrepreneur of The Year Award ) in 2011.”
In the interview below he is asked what led him to start a business in the education sector, why his franchise is a good business opportunity, who can become a franchisee and how much capital is needed to open a Young Engineers school.
What inspired and motivated you to open Young Engineers?
I can't say that I have the most positive experiences from my school days. It wasn't until I enrolled in college that I discovered that I'm actually not such a bad student... ( laughter ) When you grow up, you understand how the world is changing, you see how the business sector is developing. I had the opportunity to work with children and then I realized that technology changes very quickly, while the educational process changes very slowly. No one acquires the best and most advanced knowledge only in school. Experience comes from different sides.
If you could go back 20 years and try to predict what professions would exist today, you probably wouldn't have a clue. And even at this point, if we were to imagine occupations that would be relevant in 20 years, we would probably fail again. When you come to that realization, you realize that education must be incomparably broader and more comprehensive.
Both my parents are educators. I think part of the inspiration comes from them as well. However, for me personally, education is primarily about acquiring skills - not just gathering information. I believe, in fact, that the educational process should not be so focused on acquiring information as on developing abilities and skills. It is the only way to prepare children for the labor market of the 21st century. If you know how to think, you can achieve a lot. If you only have information, you will do things that are exclusively related to that information - which is a major limitation.
How has the Young Engineers concept developed and grown since its foundation in 2008?
Our business is constantly growing, and as you can see, mostly thanks to the development of the franchise network. On the other hand, as the business of our franchisees grows, so does the entire system - successful franchisees, as a rule, decide to expand their offer, introduce new educational programs and open schools in new locations. There are currently 200 franchisees operating in the Young Engineers network.
You know, when you ask a franchisor, they usually say: We have 1,000 or 2,000 franchisees , but that's not really the case. Often this number refers to the number of franchise units. However, we have more than 200 units, and in fact, 200 people running their businesses in more than 50 countries around the world.
Do you think your business is well positioned for the challenges of the future such as the sharing economy, AI and blockchain technologies?
I think we are well prepared for such a future. This puts us back in a position where, when you don't know what's next, you have to be skilled. You need to know how to think - how to ask a question, from which side to approach a challenge. In short, you develop the skill of approaching a problem.
Of course, the concept is constantly evolving - our teams are working hard on it. We recently launched the Algo Play and Algo Buddy programs, which allow kids to experience the world of coding and robotics—beyond the computer screen. In essence, we have "embedded" common coding elements in a tangible form - a cube, that is, a block. So instead of writing a sequence of codes, you just organize a sequence of blocks that carry some information in the encoding process. This essentially covers all the basic elements of coding, such as conditionals and branching into multiple strings. All those scary things that you would normally be scared of during your programming studies ( laughs ) - only ours are tailor-made for the child, so it becomes natural for them.
Visualization is important for children. We never say: Let's do something complicated! , but: Hey, let's do something fun! We can program this machine to do anything we want. Let's program the robot to go from this place to that place. Or: Let's program the robot to be happy when the ball goes through the basket!
Who can become a franchisee and open a Young Engineers school?
Absolutely anyone who understands the importance of preparing children for the 21st century job market. Anyone who will admit that this is an exceptional opportunity and an important mission. And, of course, anyone who sees the fun side of this business.
Usually, franchisees are divided into two groups.The first are those who have previous experience in working with children. They know how to approach children and explain simple tasks to them. Later, the children will build it with blocks and surely understand the problem - which means that the teacher or instructor needs to make a simple introduction and set the starting point. The educational side is not that difficult and I think a number of people, with some basic skills, can do this work.
The second type are people who understand our mission well, but who could not handle this work on their own. Or, simply, they are not interested in participating in the educational process. In that case, lecturers and instructors can be hired, which is not too difficult a task.
Essentially, anyone who recognizes the beauty of our mission is qualified as a Young Engineers franchisee.
How much investment is required to open a franchise?
The investment is not too big. With, say, 5,000 Euro as start-up capital, it is possible to cover all the expenses needed to open a school, with a high chance of success. However, the final amount will mostly depend on the size and equipment of the school premises, and the maximum investment can be up to 20,000 Euro.
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