“I can’t find a job so they tell me: start a business, create your own job! But nothing in my 12 years of education has given me one clue how to do this.”
Rahul, Indian Delegate to PCI’s World Youth Congress, Brazil, 2012
Rahul neatly sums up the challenge for so many young people in Low Income Countries. 80 to 90% of young people in LICs will be forced to make their livelihoods through self-employment or small household or sole-trader enterprises. Yet most schools persist in teaching the fiction that, if they work hard and pass their exams, a nice job with a salary awaits them at the end of their school careers. That is the first thing that all governments need to change – and it is a change of mindsets. A change of attitudes amongst parents and young people themselves that embraces the reality of the labour market as it is, not as they might wish it to be. What follows are are the stories of some key policy priorities that will assist that transformation.
School Enterprise Programme
“When you see one baby floating down a river, jump in and rescue it. When you see baby after baby floating down the river, go upstream, find the person throwing babies into the river, and stop them!” Parable of the River
Mary is not a typical eighteen-year-old school leaver in Uganda. She is over-whelmed with choices: she has the well-founded confidence which comes from knowing that not only has she done well in her exams, but that she has developed a range of the essential skills she needs for success in work and life. She’s a great team-player, but is able lead when required proactively to solve problems. She can express her views clearly and understands that listening is just as important. She understands business – having had two years’ experience of finance, sales, management and production. All of which make her choices harder: should she set-up her own business because she has all the experience to do so? Or should she take a decent job because employers are always saying that they need young people with just her kind of skills? Or should she continue in education so that even more possibilities open up for her – running a business or taking part-time work on the side to cover the costs of this? She won’t have to get married to have someone else support her. She won’t have to hope that there is a youth employment programme she can enter that will solve her problems. She is empowered.
How to make Mary the rule, not the exception
This is the story we would all like to hear, but sadly it is not a ‘typical’ story. It is a story so rare that it catches our attention. It is a story that should be the norm, instead of the exception. But it’s not. Why is this, and what’s the solution? Youth unemployment is at record levels globally. Every year, more young people across the world leave education looking for decent work to support themselves and their families, yet find none. Piecemeal job creation initiatives and short-term work readiness initiatives will never be able to plug this hole and provide opportunities on the scale required. We cannot fish each unemployed and unemployable young person out of the river one by one. We need to go upstream to find the source of the problem – and grasp the solution that lies in waiting. The primary and secondary education system in most countries was never set up to produce stories like Mary’s. The only measure of success has been in academic exams. As such, schools have endeavoured to deliver ever better exam results while quietly ignoring how ill-prepared these leave graduates as they try to enter the workforce. But if we want more young people facing such exciting ‘tough choices’ of employment, entrepreneurship or higher education, we need an education system that offers more than a purely academic experience.
For the last fifteen years Teach A Man To Fish and Fundación Paraguaya have been refining sustainable, scalable approaches for creating the next generation of Marys. Through a desire to a create financially self-sufficient school model, we stumbled across one of the most powerful educational platforms for equipping young people with the skills needed for success in work and life – the School Enterprise. A School Enterprise is a profit-making business set up at a school which provides an experiential learning opportunity for students to develop a diverse range of business, workplace and life-skills needed for success beyond school. This might range from a chicken coop in a rural area to a bakery in a city, from a plant producing recycled paper to a brass band for events. The only limit is students’ imagination, market demand, and the quality and price of their product.
Key Features of the Programme
While this may sound familiar at first sight, there are however critical differences in the approach to more conventional ‘enterprise education’ programmes. In the first place, these are planned as real long-term businesses, selling real products to real customers and capable of growth over time. A share of the profits is reinvested into the business to fund growth in the following year, ensuring the long-term financial sustainability of the programme at the school level. Secondly, part of the profits from the business are set aside to support the school’s educational priorities – often funding places for underprivileged students, scholastic materials, school facilities etc. – or for social work in the community. Thirdly, it upskills teachers, exposing them and their learners to new pedagogies. Teachers are trained to act as business mentors and group facilitators. However students are put directly in charge of planning and implementing the business, offering them a rare chance to take the lead. This is one of the reasons it leads to such powerful learning outcomes: it provides a totally new experience for students used to traditional teacher-centred classrooms.
Does it Work?
In 2017, more than 82,500 young people directly took part in such programmesfrom Paraguay to Rwanda, Nicaragua to Uganda, South Africa to India. But does it work?
- Empowering students to be self-reliant: An overwhelming 87% of students reported that they felt confident enough to plan and set up their own business.
- Extra income for schools: Silver level schools, having 2+ years in the programme, reported an average net profit of $1,142 for the year – the equivalent of 50% extra to a school’s non-wage budget in some countries.
- Extending teachers’ skillset: An impressive 75% of teachers said they’d used new teaching methods as a result of running the programme.
- Enhancing graduate earnings: An impact study in Uganda found 67% of graduates earned a significant 28% more than the national average income;
For any programme to create significant impact requires scalability. Currently costs per student per year stand at US$5 for countries where we’ve achieved scale, and this is projected to fall further.
Help us create more Marys
Through continued collaboration with governments, corporates & NGOs we aim to bring the benefits of this programme to over one million young people per year within the next three years. Tackling the Youth Employment crisis requires going upstream. It’s time to stopping fishing babies out the river and start teaching young people to fish (metaphorically) while they’re still at school. Young people across the developing world don’t deserve just any ‘education.’ They deserve an ‘education that pays’. They deserve to run a School Enterprise and learn to become Marys. Partner with us to create this change.
“How should we help young people to develop the entrepreneurial mindset and skills they’ll need to succeed in our changing world of work?”
Julia Deans is the CEO of Futurpreneur Canada, a national non-profit organization that has helped almost 10,000 Canadians aged 18-39 launch start-ups with business coaching, financing, mentoring and other resources.
Work is Changing. Technology will impact job markets more profoundly than the industrial revolution did but most economies are not prepared for disruption challenges.
Predicting jobs of the future is very difficult because the technologies they’ll depend on are not yet mainstream and will have titles we’ve never heard of. Our economies will succeed only if young people can spot, respond to and quickly leverage emerging opportunities to create jobs for themselves and for others. In other words, be entrepreneurial.
We are not, however, equipping young people with the entrepreneurial skillsets and mindsets they will need in the future, and want now. More young people see starting a business as a way to take control of their career, achieve a desired work life balance, and better navigate emerging risks and opportunities. Our collective opportunity is to help them.
Last year, Futurpreneur Canada asked our best and brightest young entrepreneurs and many influential leaders an important question: “How should we help young people to develop the entrepreneurial mindset and skills they’ll need to succeed in our changing world of work?”
Their resounding response? Education, storytelling and peer networks. This is our call to action.
- Build skills through education: Young people can no longer count on having jobs waiting for them when they finish school. Every young person must be prepared to see and act on opportunities throughout their careers. Students need financial and digital literacy education as well as entrepreneurial training to help them develop and create value with their ideas. They need opportunities to tackle real world problems, present and defend their ideas and skills, and practice entrepreneurship through internship and co-op placement programmesand extra-curricular activities.
- Redefine entrepreneurship through storytelling: Billionaire entrepreneurs like Oprah Winfrey, Richard Branson, and Jack Ma are not realistic role models. By better profiling and celebrating the diverse range of everyday entrepreneurs who fuel our economies, we can redefine entrepreneurial success and destigmatise failure. Storytelling can make entrepreneurship feel attainable for every young person regardless of their gender, colour, race, or religion. You have to see them to be them.
- Create communities through peer networks: As full-time jobs diminish, people will need strong peer networks to build their careers. People launching and growing businesses, for example, need financing and mentorship, but also benefit from the experience, resources and networks of other entrepreneurs.
Providing collaborative spaces such as incubators and co-working spaces and events facilitates peer-networking. Creating formalised digital networks for entrepreneurs and freelancers also helps, particularly to support peer-networking across borders and by people in small and rural communities.
I strongly encourage action in these three critical areas. We and our organizations have to value and encourage young people and their diversity, creativity and entrepreneurial spirit. By embracing the opportunities, we will generate a more entrepreneurial future for our youth, our countries and our Commonwealth.