How Entrepreneurial Skills can Make Youth More Resilient
Youth make up one quarter of the total global working population, yet 20% of youth across the world are neither employed nor undertaking education and training. Prior to the current pandemic, young people were already facing a challenging transition into the labour market as they were three times more likely than adults to be unemployed. Today, more than one in six young people are out of work, further exacerbating what was already a major development challenge. Now more than ever, youth employment needs our focus, and a pivot toward innovation and entrepreneurship can help.
Entrepreneurship skills create resilience
We need to investigate how to move beyond traditional ideals and change our mindset – a transition from young people being viewed as job seekers, to job creators. Youth require a new set of skills based on the tenants of entrepreneurship in order to become resilient, self-reliant, and eventually, the employment leaders in their communities. Entrepreneurship creates jobs while serving as an attachment to the labour market, and simultaneously cultivates a soft skillset of initiative, creativity, and autonomy to prepare youth in the face of unforeseeable challenges. And whilst it goes without saying that COVID-19 has had a hugely detrimental impact on businesses, it has inspired an entrepreneurial spirit, especially amongst the global youth population. Youth are searching for entrepreneurial solutions to their plight, eager to not just survive, but to thrive.
To match this evolving demand, it is integral that:
- Education systems start valuing entrepreneurship and weave social enterprise into curriculum frameworks; and
- Governments and the private sector join forces to boost an entrepreneurial culture by facilitating access to finance, support infrastructure and link supply to demand, specifically targeted at youth.
Three countries have undertaken projects to address the need to build entrepreneurial skills in their youth populations in different ways.
There are limited jobs available in the formal sector for young Timorese, which has only become worse due to the disruptions caused by COVID-19 on the fuel-dependent economy.
The Australian Government-funded Workforce Development Program offers scholarships for tertiary education in Australia in priority skills areas. In partnership with Timorese technical and vocational education training (TVET) institutions, the program also delivers industry-relevant courses and supports Timorese youth to participate in labour mobility schemes. The program assists youth with seasonal work in Australia while educating them on how to maximise savings, and develop the skills needed for entrepreneurship that are relevant to the market environment in Timor-Leste.
More than half the youth of Nigeria are either unemployed or underemployed and there are simply not enough jobs available for all Nigerian youth entering the labour market. Unsurprisingly, this situation has become more challenging due to the slowdown of markets caused by the COVID-19 crisis.
The Challenge Fund for Youth Employment recognises that skills interventions need to be demand-driven and that the current skills of the Nigerian youth do not match with sustainable self-employment requirements. More importantly, the Fund recognises the value of digital skills development as a prerequisite of ‘the future of work’ and a must for entrepreneurs. The Fund wants to co-invest in private sector-led initiatives that provide businesses with access to suitably skilled personnel and realize employment for youth in digital jobs. Bridging this current skills gap is at the core of improving youth employment outcomes and increasing productivity and growth in Nigeria.
Every year in Bangladesh, 1.4 million youths enter the labour force with skills that are poorly matched to industry needs. The Skills and Employment Program or ‘Sudokkho’ (‘well skilled’ in Bangla) employs an innovative training model, focused on engaging industry – especially the garment and construction sectors because of their higher than average growth potential.
Working with these stakeholders to deliver more appropriate and tailored market-driven training programs has demonstrated to the industry that investing in the skills of their youth workforce can help increase business efficiency and improve productivity overall. By facilitating a stronger and more inclusive private sector training market, youth are provided with better job opportunities, but more importantly, are equipped with the skills that are relevant to market needs.
Skills development plays a key role in fostering the resilience of young people, and investing in initiatives that focus on developing entrepreneurial skills could be the solution for building a more resilient youth workforce. The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the fragility of the global economy and the need for entrepreneurial skills for youth to survive in times of uncertainty. The global community needs to foster a culture of entrepreneurial resilience amongst our future leaders so that they are adequately prepared to respond to rapid changes in employment and able to adapt to changes in the world economy.