A Generation with Solutions
When it comes to tackling the issue of youth unemployment, it's not enough just to say we want help. We also need to offer solutions. Enter the Young Entrepreneurs Agenda from Young Invincibles.
As a young adult pounding the pavement, resume in hand, it can seem like your voice and concerns are drowned out amidst the debates going on in Washington. So it was refreshing news when the advocacy group Young Invincibles and about a dozen other youth leaders from around the country were invited to meet with President Obama and senior White House staff last month to talk about the concerns of our generation and give feedback on hundreds of youth roundtables that the participants had hosted around the country.
For me personally, being able to bring the issues and struggles that I’ve heard from our members, youth roundtables and partners to the very top, and to feel like I was being heard, was a thrilling experience.
At the meeting, the participants and President Obama discussed a range of issues, from the economy to Pell Grants to LGBT rights. Young Invincibles regularly hosts young-adult focus groups across the country to hear from all different types of young people (college students, non-college students, young professionals, union workers, unemployed youth, young veterans, African-American youth, Latino youth, etc.) and we’ve seen that some youth concerns are nearly universal. With more than 17% of Americans ages 16 to 24 out of work, youth unemployment and the decline of the American middle class has been a major focus. Whether young adults are trying to earn money for the summer, put themselves through school, or looking to start their career, they're finding that their job search is much more difficult than their parents. And the number of young people starting businesses has declined over the past five years, as well, furthering the employment slump.
Entrepreneurs have the potential to create thousands of new jobs and propel our economy forward during this difficult period.
We need President Obama and this Administration to tackle the issue of youth unemployment, but it’s not enough just to say we want help. We also need to offer solutions. Last month, with the help of young adults across the country, Young Invincibles released a young entrepreneurs agenda with specific proposals on how to help young would-be business owners – anyone from the next tech giant to the neighborhood pizza joint proprietor – succeed and overcome the hurdles they face.
Our generation has a wealth of insight and talent. But there are substantial monetary and educational barriers to young entrepreneurs that our proposal seeks to address. Financing a startup is especially daunting for a young adult or recent graduate. That's why Young Invincibles has proposed a graduated student loan forgiveness program for entrepreneurs who want to start a business but are hampered by loan payments. Just imagine: a federal program that helps you with your student debt and start a business at the same time? Our analysis suggests this policy could create tens of thousands of new jobs for young people and their eventual employees. It is also particularly difficult for a young person without a credit history or with credit card debt to get even a small loan for their enterprise. By increasing young peoples' access to government-backed microloan programs, we can help our generation of entrepreneurs find the seed money to make their dreams a reality.
This proposal also has opportunities for the public and private sectors to foster the next generation of small businesses through education and more targeted youth outreach. Initiatives to increase government procurement from small businesses owned by young adults, similar to existing provisions for procurement from female and veteran-owned small businesses, would be one way for the public sector to encourage the growth of new ventures. In the private sector, entrepreneurial mentoring programs could be a helpful channel for young business owners in need of advice.
Entrepreneurs have the potential to create thousands of new jobs and propel our economy forward during this difficult period. We are committed to collaborating with young adults across the country to bring policymakers new ideas to improve the economy for our generation.
We know that this proposal is not enough to solve our opportunity crisis. In fact, it will be just the start, as we continue to work with our generation to identify policies that can expand access to higher education, directly create youth employment or better connect young people to jobs in their community. So stay tuned and read more about our young entrepreneurs agenda here.
Aaron Smith is co-founder and Executive Director of Young Invincibles, a national organization committed to mobilizing and expanding opportunities for all young Americans between 18 and 34 years of age.