Youth employment is at a 60-year low and student loan debt is fast approaching $1 trillion—and yet young Americans are, in droves, starting their own businesses. The question is, how do we support young Americans’ efforts to rebuild the economy through entrepreneurship?
Here are 10 novel ways our country could and should get started, suggested by intellectuals, nonprofit founders, philanthropists, educators, politicians and entrepreneurs who are part of the #FixYoungAmerica campaign, a solutions-based movement that aims to end youth unemployment led by the Young Entrepreneur Council.
1. Teach entrepreneurship at every level
How many plane crashes would occur if airlines just let any passenger fly the planes cross country? Skills and experience make the difference. Let’s apply this to empowering young people to be self-reliant and experience free enterprise opportunities. Why shouldn’t teachers everywhere engage students in entrepreneurship education with experiences and skill building K-16?
— Dr. Cathy Ashmore, Founder, Consortium for Entrepreneurship Education
2. Boost startup opportunities
Make it as easy and accessible for a bright college graduate to work for a startup as it is now to join an investment bank or consulting firm.
— Andrew Yang, Founder & CEO, Venture for America
3. Encourage risk-taking
Encourage students to take action on their ideas. Support them in taking the next step of putting into practice the entrepreneurial lessons learned in the classroom. Persuade students to get involved with entrepreneurial support groups, like the Collegiate Entrepreneurs’ Organization (CEO). Also, be sure to support young entrepreneurs by doing business with them.
— Katie Sowa, Assistant Director,Collegiate Entrepreneurs’ Organization
4. Develop 21st-century skills
We can #FixYoungAmerica right now by providing all of our kids with access to 21st-century tools and skills, like computer science, that will prepare them for careers in the fastest growing sectors in our economy. Teaching our kids to think algorithmically and make scalable things like software will provide them with confidence and ability to create their own paths to success.
— Scott Schwaitzberg, Co-Founder & Advisory Board Member, Academy for Software Engineering
5. Scale entrepreneurship education with technology
Junior Achievement is helping create a new generation of entrepreneurs by leveraging technology to scale our program delivery and volunteer engagement. We currently reach 4 million American students annually and are mobilizing resources and partnerships to meet the demand for access to our experiential entrepreneurship programs.
— Jack E. Kosakowski, President & CEO, Junior Achievement USA
6. Look to community colleges
If we acknowledge the role entrepreneurs play in building our economy and creating jobs and security in our communities, then we must demand correlation between what is being taught in the classroom and the role those entrepreneurs play. Our community colleges provide a practical, affordable and democratic place to start.
— Heather Van Sickle, Executive Director, National Association for Community College Entrepreneurship
7. Use crowdfunding to hone entrepreneurial instinct
Lebron James became a basketball star because he practiced and played basketball all the time from an early age, not by simply watching Michael Jordan on TV. Have students learn to be entrepreneurs by doing, too. They can launch a new business idea through crowdfunding each year from 7th grade through college – 10 businesses by graduation. Like math, Mandarin and coding, entrepreneurial instinct is a new language that can best be learned through action.
— Slava Rubin, Co-Founder& CEO, Indiegogo
8. Focus on the global picture
We can #FixYoungAmerica by focusing on solving significant challenges and benefiting the world, instead of hoarding solutions and capturing value for ourselves. America’s success has been driven by our commitment to universal values and ideals. Selfishness will isolate us in a time of globalization, weakening us and tearing us apart.
— John Harthorne, Founder & CEO, MassChallenge
9. Forget college – try franchising
It’s the system, not the young people themselves, that needs to be fixed. Generation Y is by no means lazy. They’re systematically disadvantaged from the start. We need to make franchising financially viable, either after, through, or in place of college. Give our youth a real and accessible opportunity to shine and get your sunglasses out. You’ll need them.
— Nick Friedman, Co-Founder, College Hunks Hauling Junk
10. Get real about small business
We fix young America by having young Americans fix the economy. We fix the economy when more small businesses are profitable, spend money and hire people. We can help small business grow by preparing people for the realities of small business, giving due respect to the business owners of America, providing the right tools and resources and helping to connect small businesses to each other resulting in a small business economy.
— Carissa Reiniger, Founder & President, Silver Lining Ltd.
Have ideas to add? Let us know in the comments or share them on the #FixYoungAmerica campaign website.