Yet in the midst of all the hobnobbing, the official agenda was serious. With 2,500 attendees all trudging (ever so elegantly) through the powdery snow-covered Alps, global deals were being sealed and everyone was locked in heated economic debate and planning.
In preparing for their annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland the World Economic Forum leaders ranked global unemployment as the number three issue on their “trends of 2014” list — ahead of climate change inaction and cyber-security. Clearly, they think it’s a big problem.
And it is. As president and CEO of Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE), an NGO providing entrepreneurship education to disadvantaged youth, I’m on the frontline every day, working to reverse the crippling unemployment trend – especially as it impacts young people.
Indeed, US youth unemployment rates have been well above total unemployment rates for some time. The most recent report on employment was no exception — showing 20.2 percent of young people are without work compared to 6.7 percent of the overall American workforce. Unfortunately, this situation is only going to become dire. The International Labour Organization predicts the world will need 600 million new jobs in the next 15 years alone to sustain growth.
We should do everything we can to help solve this problem, as it will have an impact on everyone. For the people paving their own path, here are five ways entrepreneurs can help address the coming crisis:
1. Mentor. Students benefit the most from the real-world guidance of business leaders. Schools cannot do this alone, as they are too financially stretched to run quality entrepreneurship programs without outside support. That’s why it is vital that businesses large and small send entrepreneurs and leaders into the classroom to become mentors.
2. Create internships. With youth unemployment alarmingly high, it’s even harder now for teens to score a coveted internship due to the steep competition. Yet, these internships are key in helping graduating students develop the skills and experience to land a full-time job.
3. Build apprenticeships. Apprenticeship programs are once again the rage and have been crucial to lowering unemployment rates in countries like Germany, Austria and Switzerland. Dual education systems combine study with work experience and provide a promising path forward for youth without college degrees. As a bonus, these systems generally cost taxpayers less than government-run job training programs.
4. Support local small businesses. Entrepreneurship is the backbone of both the world’s and America’s economic recovery. As of 2011, there were 400 million entrepreneurs in 54 countries surveyed for the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor report. Of those entrepreneurs, 140 million are expecting to add at least five new jobs over the next five years. So it’s critical to help foster small-business growth.
5. Help fund youth entrepreneurship education. For decades, nonprofits and other organizations have focused on teaching children from low-income communities to recognize business opportunities and plan for the future. When entrepreneurship is taught to disadvantaged youth, their street smarts can develop into academic and business smarts. Plus, they do better in class, stay in school longer and are more successful than their counterparts.
Now it’s your turn to pay it forward and help a young person find a job by helping them make one.