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Youth Empowerment.. Let's Move From Rhetoric To Action.

For us to transform our community and our nation, we must all focus on three main areas three main areas of our lives, namely; Education, Youth Empowerment and Families empowerment.

Statistics show that 50% of the world’s population is under 30 years old and with more than the half of the world’s total population living in urban areas, it is prudent for us to think on ways to empower our young generation so as to secure our future. Towns and cities play an important role in the lives of young people. It is from here where they find the best training and employment opportunities, enjoy the most diverse cultural offerings and nightlife experiences and have a better chance of improving their standard of living.

When talking about youth-related issues, ‘unemployment’ has always been one of the buzzwords over the decades. More than half of young people cannot find decent work. Insufficient skills for the labour market and a lack of entrepreneurship knowledge have hit youth hard as they leave school. There is evidence that higher levels of education are not leading to lower levels of unemployment for youth. Our educational institutions are not creating an effective mix of academic and practical qualifications. They place little focus on the imparting of core skills that enhance the employability of youth (leadership, teamwork, problem solving, etc).

The provision of vocational and skills development training in this country is for the most part limited, under-funded, institutionally fragmented and of poor quality. As a result, students are entering the labour market with skill that are of a poor standard and of little relevance to available employment. Our polytechnics are poorly regulated and lack standardisation, which makes the integration of young trainees into the formal sector very difficult. Our young workers therefore remain vulnerable, eking out a precarious existence in the informal economy.

Employers on their part ideally want students emerging from the school system who are 'work fit'. Many school leavers have no prior work experience or qualifications but that doesn't negate their huge potential. Very few employers are willing to give these school leavers a chance to bridge the skills gap that many face thus rejecting them into the unemployment crisis.

It is very importance for employers to include young people in the design of employability programmes. Investment in young people works best where they are given the support, skills and resources to lead the direction of the programme themselves. The inspiration and value of insight that these young people give requires a gradual shift in mindset and therefore the more they need mentors to soldier them on into successful outfits.

There are also few avenues for helping young micro-entrepreneurs and small business men and women to develop and expand their enterprises. Self-employment, though it is the primary economic activity of most Kenyans, remains a marginal and neglected part of the economy. Workers in the informal economy receive little or no social protection against sickness, abuse or injury and are not recognized, registered, regulated or protected under labour legislation. Lessons in enterprise are quite vague in our education which also makes it hard for school leavers to make a niche outside employment.

The unemployment crisis has provided so many youth with an opportunity for fascinating initiatives, new networks and strong bonds to form amongst youth all over the world and made surprising discoveries. Majority of these youth have come together and discovered the ‘crisis’ impact by telling their personal stories. What has come out of such gatherings is a wide range of ideas.

These network structures have mobilised them to generate value by propagating knowledge, letting them pull necessities towards them. In any community setting, networks flourish spontaneously. As people connect around shared interests and knowledge, they build networks that can range in size from fewer than a dozen colleagues and acquaintances to hundreds. These networks organise and reorganize themselves and extend their reach via cell phones, social media and other digital age accessories to mobilize talent and knowledge amongst themselves.

There is also this emerging trend around the world where corporates take civic responsibility that takes into consideration holistic community development. These initiatives have proved that corporate social responsibility is not only about philanthropy or visibility but concerns core business strategy. These trends are nowhere more evident than in the IT industry where investment in education and the training of youth in computers and technology has become a prerequisite for future business success. Investment in improving the employability of young people could provide massive economic returns for businesses and the society. Unemployment is soaring and the economy is tanking, but with the help of seniors, those in power plus a dose of entrepreneurial flair, young people can forge their futures. It is never too early to learn about business and enterprise. Any age is a good age.

Action on youth employment is very critical, as the business sector has at its disposal the resources, expertise and capacity needed to support the creation of employment opportunities. Business investment in local communities makes a strong contribution to poverty reduction and youth employment as it spurs job creation, thereby allowing young workers to save, buy property, feed their families, send their children to school and afford social security. In this way, the youth can at last break out of generations of poverty. A world of hunger, poverty and injustices is one in which markets, peace and freedom will never take root.

Businesses can also support young entrepreneurs by promoting an entrepreneurial culture that values the principles of market economies and competition, where youth can be empowered to use their energy to create self-employment. Businesses can also use their experience and resources to provide advice, mentoring or financing for disadvantaged youth entrepreneurs. Mentoring is a powerful resource for nourishing the entrepreneurial spirit of young people. It plays a pivotal role in many private sector interventions. Building the confidence of young people is the key to success.

Policymakers should ensure more of this when making policies that attempt in empowering our youth. Accomplished mentors are often experienced business people dedicated to the advancement of young people and willing to provide advice and encouragement; to introduce young people to their business network; and to act as a source of feedback and reassurance. Whether it is a matter of giving a few useful tips on how to ensure success in business or providing in-depth consulting on business planning or strategy, every successful entrepreneur can benefit from the support of a mentor. Successful business people have the insights and experience which can encourage young people to turn their enterprise experience dreams into reality.

Promoting an entrepreneurial culture will not only help to sensitize the population to what it means to be an young entrepreneur, but will also help to foster an environment where entrepreneurship is respected and valued. Businessmen can participate in youth business events, road shows and the promotion of role models, all of which serve to promote an entrepreneurial culture among young people. They can also sponsor business plans, innovation or entrepreneurship competitions that not only give entrepreneurs the publicity they need to build up their business but also provide the business sponsor with advertising opportunities and a talent pool of accomplished entrepreneurs. Businesses can offer recognition to successful young entrepreneurs in the form of start-up grants, prizes, certificates or business services. Through these competitions business can also help with access to capital – directly as part of the award or indirectly by serving as a loan guarantor for youth in their dealings with commercial finance institutions. As much as they supporting the youth on strategy and operations, businessmen should also assist them to access capital to start-up, expand, or develop projects. In the developing world, access to capital is a key barrier to the development of successful micro, small and medium-sized businesses. There remains an important role for youth funding to catalyse and underpin private investment due to the early stage of the market.

It is now time we moved from rhetoric to action. No one must be left behind.

A lot of young people want to start up something themselves, to take a chance, because later on something really big could come out of it. What they are lacking is the enabling environment (necessary conditions and structures) that ensures they can influence decisions, have access to their rights, and have improved livelihoods. We need more young people to be the protagonists of their own movements, to generate, analyse and use their own data, and to be their own strongest advocates for human rights and equality

Young people use online communication to form ad hoc networks to provide basic public services, respond to humanitarian crises and form community-based protection systems. They are establishing socially-oriented enterprises. They are advocating for policy dialogue on contested issues. They are holding leading roles in organisations and movements. They are taking to the streets, sometimes risking their lives, to push for justice and human rights. But a disenfranchised youth is dangerous and initiatives that can earn them money; skills training schemes, work experience, apprenticeships, mentoring and financial literacy lessons can help prepare young people to take full advantage of available opportunities and stimulate enterprise. Programmes that encourage entrepreneurship and innovation can give young people greater confidence and control over their future, making a shaky outlook a lot brighter.

Youth are the most creative, energetic and passionate age cohort- all necessary attributes of successful entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurship is a very important means of creating jobs and a valuable strategy for improving the livelihood and economic independence of young people. It is an innovative approach to integrating youth into today’s changing labour markets. For business, successful young entrepreneurs means a reinforcement of supply chains, a more skilled and ambitious talent pool, and an acceleration of economic growth.

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