Linking Young Adults to Microbusiness: Providing New Pathways to Economic Opportunity

Executive Summary

1. Youth unemployment in the U.S. is much higher than for adults 25 years and older, and worse for minorities. Prolonged youth unemployment costs the individual reduced lifetime earnings, can lead to serious outcomes like incarceration, and increases reliance on government supports, which is funded by tax payers. It affects all of us.

2. The existing workforce is pulling away from younger people, with even Millennials possessing post-secondary degrees finding it difficult to get hired. Employers are increasingly demanding college degrees and also say that incoming potential workers lack certain basic skills, especially communication and soft/interpersonal skills.

3. College tuition and debt are at an all-time high and many people cannot afford to attend.

4. Yet even without post-secondary credentials or much work experience, young people today have
optimism and ambitions, are technologically savvy, and tend to describe themselves positively.

This paints a picture of potential talent with limited opportunities to utilize that talent.

All of these factors listed above support investigation into the viability of actively connecting youth to entrepreneurship – helping them to create their own opportunities.

In fact, this research shows that 45% of Youth 18-24 who are not currently in school and un/under-employed are highly interested in starting their own businesses; however, they lack the knowledge, resources and supports to do so.

5. Studies have shown that a person is more likely to start a business if entrepreneurship is already in the family, indicating the strong effect of role modeling.1 The business knowledge and networks are readily
transmitted to the would-be entrepreneur, as well as possibly certain values like autonomy and perseverance. Therefore the ability to start up a business as well as the confidence to do so gives some people who are exposed to it in their families of-origin a jump-start. Others not born into families who run businesses may not even consider starting one themselves as it may appear too complicated, daunting, foreign, frightening or just not thought of at all. And according to data from the Federal Reserve, fewer young people are starting businesses today.

Therefore, actively exposing youth to entrepreneurship, especially those for whom entrepreneurship is not familiar, is necessary in order to break the cycle and expose potential entrepreneurs to new economic opportunities.

But Entrepreneurial Training does not need to end only in self-employment, nor need it be largely focused on business planning and financial literacy and other technical aspects. A holistic approach to Entrepreneurial Training (ET) that teaches business acumen but also life skills and encourages character development, offered to those youth who may lack post-secondary credentials and have had little work experience, could not only prepare them for launching a start-up or joining a start-up team, but also improve their employability by small businesses, non-profits or the general workforce. It may even lead to more interest and preparation for college.

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