If we’re going to succeed in combatting what some are calling a ‘failure to launch,’ we need places for them to land. Finding and growing those options will require a great many programs, policies, investments and ideas.A popular idea has been focusing on and incentivizing education in so-called STEM fields – science, technology, engineering and math. Preparing today’s students for where we think the jobs will be in the future. It’s a good start and it’s logical that learning those key job skills will help make some students more suited for some future jobs. But we can do more. While we’re teaching people to be better employees, we should also invest in teaching them the mindset, coupled with the skills, to be innovators and entrepreneurs. Developing the ability to recognize opportunity and giving young people the tools to capitalize on those opportunities empowers them to take ownership of their future in ways which directly link education to real-world success. Best of all, we know it works. A survey of graduates from the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE) programs around the globe shows that those who received entrepreneurship training stayed in school longer, were employed more and made more money than their counterparts. In the ten largest cities where NFTE training is offered, high school graduation rates are between 57-78%. But in those same cities, 89% of those who had entrepreneurship training graduate. And those who have completed entrepreneurship training report earn 50% more than the national average – $38,000 annually as compared to $24,000. In other words, putting a young person to work does not mean finding them a job. In some cases, with the right investment in entrepreneurship and the encouragement to succeed, young people will create their own jobs and, in many cases, hire others. They can and will invent the next big things that change lives, lift up communities and grow economies. Youth unemployment is a global problem and the social, political and economic costs of a continued crisis will be extreme. Expanding programs which plant and nurture the seeds of success through experiential entrepreneurship training – preparing those who will create the companies that hire STEM graduates and others – will help put young people to work. And empowered youth who can seize their own opportunities are more likely to see a bright light as opportunity and not, as the European trade chief put it, a train.
- improved academic performance, school attendance; and educational attainment
- increased problem-solving and decision-making abilities
- improved interpersonal relationships, teamwork, money management, and public speaking skills
- job readiness
- enhanced social psychological development (self-esteem, ego development, self-efficacy), and
- perceived improved health status
- interest in attending college increased 32 percent
- occupational aspirations increased 44 percent
- independent reading increased 4 percent
- leadership behavior increased 8.5 percent
- belief that attaining one’s goals is within one’s control (locus of control) increased, and
- alumni (99 percent) recommended NFTE programs
- Opportunity for Work Based Experiences
- Work experiences for youth with disabilities during high school, both paid and unpaid, help them acquire jobs at higher wages after they graduate. Also, students who participate in occupational education and special education in integrated settings are more likely to be competitively employed than students who have not participated in such activities.
- Opportunity to Exercise Leadership and Develop Interpersonal Skills
- By launching a small business or school-based enterprise, youth with disabilities can lead and experience different roles. In addition, they learn to communicate their ideas and influence others effectively through the development of self-advocacy and conflict resolution skills. Moreover, they learn how to become team players, and to engage in problem solving and critical thinking — skills valued highly by employers in the competitive workplace of the 21st Century. Mentors, including peer mentors both with and without disabilities, can assist the youth in developing these competencies.
- Opportunity to Develop Planning, Financial Literacy, and Money Management Skills
- The ability to set goals and to manage time, money and other resources are important entrepreneurship skills which are useful in any workplace. For youth with disabilities, learning about financial planning, including knowledge about available work incentives, is critical for budding entrepreneurs with disabilities who are currently receiving cash benefits from the Supplemental Security Income Program (SSI).
- the age of the young people
- their interests and abilities
- the time they have to devote to entrepreneurial activities
- the available fiscal and human resources (i.e., community support, business support)
- the expertise of staff and what kind of training and support staff might need
- the effect program participation may have on youth supports and benefits
- the availability of existing entrepreneurial programs in the area
- the support of the program from organization’s leadership, and
- the intended outcomes of the program/activities
- Financial Planning
1. Get mentored.Finding a mentor is at the top of the list because it happens to be very important. Even experienced adults look for mentors. How many business savvy people are there in your family and extended family? How about friends of your family, or adults you might be connected with on Facebook and Twitter? You may find that there are dozens of people you can come to for advice and crucial role modeling. If you feel that your circle of friends and family is lacking in business mentors, consider asking them if they could introduce you (either online or in person) to people that could mentor you.
2. Sharpen your communication skills.Much of what you do in business involves getting people to believe in you and your product or service. So as a young entrepreneur, you’ll need to communicate — a lot. Both in written form and verbally. Being able to give a speech or a presentation will greatly benefit you and your business, as will blogging clearly and convincingly about your product. It even pays to be really good at conversing one-on-one. Entrepreneurs who are personable and likeable gain trust faster than those who seem aloof.
3. Earn credibility.Your youth can be a very good thing. Young people often have fresh ideas and approaches, along with the advantage of learning from successes and failures early in life. However, being young also comes with a greater need to prove yourself. People sometimes question whether or not they should take a teenager’s business seriously. So it’s your job to prove to the world that you are serious about your business, and that your product or service is worth their respect. One way to boost your own credibility is to be strategic with your personal branding efforts on social media. Regularly post topics related to your particular interest in entrepreneurship, and blog frequently about any ideas you have about doing things differently or better. To boost the credibility of your product or service, you’ll need to show potential customers the value it can bring them. Whether by blogging about your product’s benefits, demonstrating your product on YouTube, or even letting people use your product for free, find ways to prove its worth. The longer you stick to your entrepreneurial ventures, and the more positive reviews and testimonials you gain, the more credibility you’ll earn.
4. Find ways to manage your stressWith homework, extracurricular activities and family challenges, stress is common among teens. And when entrepreneurship is added to the mix, you’re even more susceptible. Uncontrolled stress and anxiety will not only hinder your schoolwork and entrepreneurial ventures, but it will also damage your emotional and psychological well being. Along with the responsibilities you’re giving yourself as a teenage entrepreneur, it’s crucial that you find outlets or hobbies to enjoy. Sometimes, a Saturday of rest or hanging out with friends can do wonders for your stressed and frazzled mind. If worse comes to worst, and you simply can’t get relief from your stress, it may be best to scale back or postpone your entrepreneurial efforts. Nothing is worth sacrificing your schoolwork or your mental health.
5. Innovate when possible.Chances are, there are going to be businesses out there similar to yours. That shouldn’t discourage you from your entrepreneurial ventures. It should, however, encourage you to find a way to innovate something about your business. Do some research about your competition. Are their businesses lacking in anything? Are there gaps between what they offer and what the customer needs? If so, try to find ways for your business to fill those gaps. Even if your innovations seem small and insignificant, go forward with them. Oftentimes, it’s the little things that customers love about their favorite brands and businesses. Also, remember that when two companies are similar to each other, customers favor the one with the best customer service.