One Young World Ambassador from Cyprus, Katerina Gavrielidou on how youth entrepreneurship can solve the global challenge of youth unemployment.
Abraham Lincoln famously said that ‘the best way to predict your future is to create it’. Nowadays, these words resonate louder than ever, as massive unemployment rates worldwide call for young people to take their future in their hands and invent their jobs upon graduation. Entrepreneurship, broadly described as the act of creating something out of nothing, can be a solution to the global challenge of youth unemployment, and a significant source of much-needed job creation. More so, youth entrepreneurship can be a celebration of young people’s creativity and technological aptitude, and a powerful tool for youth empowerment.
[[[image-0 medium left]]] It is observed that since the financial crisis began, governments and the private sector are in many cases not anymore able to provide young people with adequate employment opportunities. Therefore, youth entrepreneurship plays a vital role for the economic growth and acts as a catalyst for job creation. Nevertheless, it is true that despite the general consensus on the need for youth entrepreneurship, young people do not actually consider setting up a new business as their first career option upon graduation.
Therefore, more initiatives should be developed to cultivate the entrepreneurial mindset among the youth through non-formal education, drawing attention to the virtues of youth entrepreneurship. Equally, entrepreneurship courses should be introduced at school curricula in order to familiarize young people with the entrepreneurial world, and provide them with the skills they need to become entrepreneurs.
Comparably, there is a global concern about reshaping education systems so as to connect young people with the job market. In an ever-changing global economy, education establishments fail to equip young people with the skills they need in the world of work, namely digital literacy, general business acumen, and other soft skills such as self-confidence, communication and problem-solving adeptness. The mismatch between the skills that young people have with the competencies that employers look for - primarily ICT and technology skills - further exacerbates the problem of youth unemployment.
A study by the European Commission surprisingly reveals that by 2015 there will be 900,000 unfilled jobs in the ICT sector that, despite the current levels of unemployment, provides more than 100,000 digital jobs per year. In order to address this issue, the Commission launched the Grand Coalition for Digital Jobs, aimed at better matching supply and demand of digital skills 1. Similarly, in the UK a new curriculum will teach children from age 5 how to code, and how to create their own programs 2.
What is more, the European Youth Forum initiated Structured Dialogue, a process that gathers the views of young people on issues that concern them, and directly involves them in defining EU’s youth policies 3. The current phase of structured dialogue focuses on youth entrepreneurship as a means for achieving social inclusion and autonomy of young people, other than as a source of job creation. Other initiatives, such as the Youth Ambassadors hub of the Cyprus Youth Council, supports youth-led projects, and promotes youth entrepreneurship as an approach to fighting youth unemployment.
Remarkably, volunteerism can also lead to youth entrepreneurship and subsequent job creation. More precisely, volunteerism does not only provide access to civic groups and social networks, it also connects young people with the resources and information they need to become entrepreneurs. Access to mentors, partners, and sources of funding are crucial when it comes to strengthening start-ups, and volunteerism can be a gateway to all these. What's more, a 2011 United Nations report shows that volunteerism offers other benefits like ‘solidarity, belonging and empowerment, all of which contribute significantly to quality of life’ 4.
That being the case, youth entrepreneurship is praised not only as a route to job creation and youth empowerment, but also as a way to integrate young people, including those with fewer opportunities, in society. Youth entrepreneurship also provides young people with the necessary skills and experiences to thrive economically throughout their lives, whilst helping their countries prosper as well.
Taking all these into account, youth entrepreneurship must move further up on the agendas of global leaders. Moreover, legal frameworks for the protection of young entrepreneurs, and tax incentives for start-ups should be introduced.
Without a doubt, the time for young people to ward off uncertainty and build their future has arrived. Summits such as One Young World are ideal for bringing like-minded individuals together, promoting the entrepreneurial ethos, and giving young people the confidence to initiate projects and lead. Certainly, similar forums should be implemented nationally and regionally too.