The quality and level of employment of world youth will significantly influence the way in which we combat the challenges of the 21st century. The World Bank estimates that by 2015 there will be three billion people in the world below the age of 25. With astounding global rates of unemployment and with youth unemployment globally DOUBLE the adult unemployment rates we know that now more than ever that our young people need to be more prepared to survive in the market economy. Entrepreneurship is one of the solutions to this challenge.
Governments, private sector and civil society have recognized the mutual benefits of partnering with our youth to help develop an entrepreneurial mindset as well as the necessary enabling environment. Much advancement has been made locally in this regard with institutions such as the Chamber of Commerce, OPSR and SLDB shifting resources to target and support youth entrepreneurship. The Youth Enterprise Equity Fund (YEEF), a subsidiary of the SLDB is one of the unique examples of this collaboration where equity financing is provided to assist young entrepreneurs start up their businesses. This structure significantly eases traditional start up burdens such as collateral requirements and heavy loan repayments. Additionally, much needed training and technical support is also provided through partnering bodies such as the Sir Arthur Lewis Community College, Small Enterprise Development Unit and the National Skills Development Centre.
Despite the current dismal global financial outlook it is important that we continue to provide improved opportunities for our youth to become involved in this economy. We must continue to shift the mindset culturally from that of ‘job seeker’ to ‘job creator’ and promote long term economic self-reliance. Everyone has a role to play in supporting and developing our youth – our investment in youth and youth entrepreneurship today will determine how much they in turn will be able to do for us, for our economies and societies for generations to come.