How entrepreneurial skills can better equip the youth of today
Although statistics revealed that in the UK, unemployment in the 16-24 year old bracket increased by 13% since the onset of the pandemic through to November 2020, amounting to 68,000 young people seeking employment with no success, we reveal how, by developing and encouraging entrepreneurial skills, one can better equip our youth for the future.
While the rapid decline in unemployment among the youth in the UK (a decline of 231,000 recorded between March and November 2020) are not as concerning as those recorded during the 2009 financial crisis, this decline in unemployment has raised concerns regarding the after-effects which may potentially lead to a lost generation. Research has indicated that this effect on unemployment among youth, may lead to long-term scarring regarding employment prospecting and earnings.
In addition to this concern, it is also evident that even relatively short spells of unemployment can potentially lead to loss of self-esteem and confidence, which in turn results in an increase in mental health problems, while long stretches of unemployment can lead to detrimental effects regarding mental health – which is particularly true in this youthful age bracket.
There is however, light at the end of this seemingly dark tunnel. Employment schemes providing work experience through apprenticeships or other schemes are critical. Job placements such as these not only create an opportunity for young people to gain work experience, but also assist in improving their skills and confidence, and aid in preventing poor mental health. In our opinion, government interventions would be more effective by considering how best to develop entrepreneurial competencies, which in turn could offer work experience and improve employability levels of young people.
Entrepreneurial competencies embrace a combination of knowledge, skill and attitude, which enable a person to launch a new venture. Entrepreneurial competencies encapsulate an opportunistic mindset, enabled through creative problem solving techniques, taking initiative, communicating, reflecting, adapting, and include attitudes such as curiosity, open-mindedness, proactivity, flexibility, determination, and resilience. While some believe that entrepreneurs are born, there is robust evidence that such entrepreneurial competencies and “the entrepreneurial mindset” can be taught.
Not everyone aspires to be an entrepreneur, however, entrepreneurial competencies not only assist in the onset of new ventures, but also aid in boosting employability. Entrepreneurial competencies are transferable skills enabling young people to succeed in diverse careers and equip people to be more proactive in navigating uncertainty and to overcome resource constraints – all elements characteristic of businesses and organisations in the current environment.
FOSTERING THE ENTREPRENEURIAL MINDSET
It is essential to offer work experience in small businesses. This offers a positive first stepping stone with reference to affording young people work experience, in turn enabling them to familiarise themselves with more flexible working environments dominant in smaller firms (which typically offer more complex and interesting tasks to work and where tasks are much less centralised and compartmentalised, than in larger firms).
Existing schemes could also complement dedicated interactive training modules to aid in the development of entrepreneurial competencies. These should not be centred on “starting a business” but rather on enabling young people create and sell their ideas, understand entrepreneurship as a process, and serve as an approach to enhance problem-solving skills, which in turn increase output – competencies useful to all employees.
Furthermore, an expansion on existing schemes is required in order to recognise that setting up one’s business or social enterprise is a valuable learning experience in its own right and will in turn, provide support to young people who have an idea they would like to pursue. Prior to the onslaught of the COVID pandemic, approximately 8% of those in the 18-24 year old bracket in the UK, were involved in start-up businesses, and many more had start-up ideas offering learning opportunities. These young entrepreneurs claim that this gave them a sense of control and helped gain a more positive state of mental health.
Inspiration on designing such a “startup apprenticeship” scheme could be drawn from the likes of a start-up visa scheme – a government initiative in the UK – allowing people with innovative growth potential start-up ideas to be granted UK visas. This includes a model comprising timings and mechanisms which measure project accountability.
Evidence indicates that by encouraging the unemployed to start businesses, could however, result in low-quality start-ups.
Many young people would rather benefit from gaining work experience before embarking on the journey and venturing into starting a new business. There is a considerable potential upside with regard to equipping more young people with entrepreneurial competencies: enabling them to lead potentially more fulfilled work-lives; providing a larger supply of desirable talent to businesses and organisations, and the potential for new job creation, when those equipped with entrepreneurial competencies feel inclined to venture into setting up their new organisation or company.
The most significant upside to enhancing entrepreneurial skills, is the avoidance of a lost generation and of limiting suffering from mental health problems.
Entrepreneurial competencies encapsulate an opportunistic mindset, enabled through creative problem solving techniques