With youth unemployment at 14 per cent, more than double the rate for adult workers, Canada’s young people are being encouraged to innovate to create their own jobs.
The Canadian Youth Business Foundation provides mentoring, training and help with finding financing for young graduates who hope to be entrepreneurs.
Its new CEO Julia Deans would like to create a national action plan for youth entrepreneurship and plans a summit later this year to pull together interested professionals.
She argues Canada will need young entrepreneurs to replace those who retire over the next two decades and to remain competitive globally.
She’s also concerned about a current generation of youth who may never hold a traditional job.
“We know there aren’t jobs for every youth coming out of school and we also know not every youth wants to have a traditional job,” Deans said in an interview with CBC’s Metro Morning.
“More and more we see young people saying, I want to work hard, but I want to be on my own account. I have an idea and I’m going to go for it – that’s quite different from when we were finishing school,”
Those who cannot find traditional work are missing out on the chance to see businesses in action and learn from the experience. In countries such as Spain and Greece, with youth unemployment of up to 60 per cent, there are fears of losing an entire generation.
But Deans argues the technology savvy generation now entering the workforce are natural innovators and just need support to get started.
“They need to be aware that it’s a career path, they need the financial skills to run a business, to do financial management, then they need the money and support to get going, then we have to help them learn how to grow their networks,” she said.
“A lot of people of older vintages think that it’s too risky, but with the truth is, with right skills and resources young people can make it.”
Canada’s small communities offer better networking opportunities for these young people, but the cities have great incubators that help small businesses grow, Deans said. What’s needed is a way of sharing ideas nationally, perhaps with a view to a creating national action plan, she said.
“I’m hoping that we can knit together the really good things that are going on to help young people, so that we in Ontario can hear the things that are happening in B.C. or Nova Scotia and that we can bring people who help young entrepreneurs together with entrepreneurs to say here are three or four big things we can all focus on to improve entrepreneurship in Canada,” she said.
The CYBF is planning a series of roundtables across the country over the next couple of months to talk about youth entrepreneurship,
Created in 1996, the CYBF has helped 6,000 young entrepreneurs launch businesses and has a network of 4,000 mentors who donate their time to help them through the first years of a new business.