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Written by Elisabet Sannas, Consultant & Project Manager at NyföretagarCentrum Sverige (Youth Business International (YBI) member in Sweden)

The labour market as we know it today is changing rapidly. The educational system often teaches students to become productive employees in large companies or the civil service. The YBI network serves a very important role in facilitating the transition from life-long employment to a much more diverse career through entrepreneurship and self-employment.

I recently had the opportunity to be a part of the Pathways to Progress event held at the News Building in London, hosted by the Citi Foundation. The setting couldn’t be more impressive with a backdrop of spectacular views over the city. Pathways to Progress is Citi Foundation’s response to the persistent issue of youth unemployment. Focusing on youth entrepreneurship and mentorship as one of the burning global challenges of today to aid sustainable development.

I was invited to speak on the ‘Decent Jobs for Youth’ panel due to NyföretagarCentrum’s knowledge of providing entrepreneurship support to people on the move, specifically migrants and refugees. The event coincided with the launch of Citi’s recent report ‘Migration and the Economy’, highlighting the economic benefits of migration. Also taking part were Joshua Bicknell, CEO of Balloon Ventures, Solveiga PakštaitÄ—, Founder and Director of Mimica, and Brandee McHale, President of the Citi Foundation and Head of Corporate Citizenship at Citi, who excellently chaired the discussion.

Images courtesy of Micha Theiner

The overall impression I got from being on the panel was that: “youth is not wasted on the young”! The energy, resourcefulness and brilliance was just fantastic! As a representative of the over 50s, I can clearly say that we need to recognise what the younger generation has to offer in terms of bringing new approaches to old challenges. We need to welcome more young entrepreneurs into our networks and help them to access financing and mentorship. This cross-generational cooperation will lead to the much-needed sustainable development of entrepreneurship.

Through Pathways to Progress, the Citi Foundation funds the excellent initiative Youth Business Europe, YBI’s European regional programme for youth entrepreneurship, bringing together YBI members Adie, MicroLab, microStart, Youth Business Spain, Positive Planet France, Youth Business Germany, Qredits and NyföretagarCentrum.

Through this programme, NyföretagarCentrum has had the opportunity to learn from other well-established organisations, and benefit from their work around training, coaching, mentoring and microfinance. I hope that NyföretagarCentrum has equally provided them with knowledge on the important issue of helping young people from underserved groups to start and run a business.

At NyföretagarCentrum, we agree with the findings of the Citi Foundation’s report underlining that migration has a substantial positive impact on economic development and is a force for economic growth. We have been working with people on the move for several years. Each year, around 2,500 of the approximately 7,000 businesses started through our support are set up by people who were born outside Sweden. These businesses create 2,200 new full-time jobs annually and in several cases, the entrepreneurs then contribute to the organisation itself by volunteering as mentors or board members of our more than 80 local boards.

I have worked as a consultant (we live as we learn as the staff all have our own businesses) and part-time project manager at NyföretagarCentrum, for twelve years. I believe that helping others to gain access to their full potential through entrepreneurship, fulfilling their dreams or gaining a sustainable source of income, is one of the most rewarding jobs there is.

It was a pleasure to share my experiences with the panel, meet experts in the field and learn from the other attendees. I feel that I play a small but important role in this somewhat revolutionary process that society has to go through, not some time in the future, but right now.

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