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Life Skills Are What Youth Need: Blackstone CEO

Thursday, 2 Dec 2010 | 2:29 AM ET

As unemployment amongst the young soars, the boss of private equity giant Blackstone has called for those under 25 to be equipped with better life skills.

Stephen A. Schwarzman
AP
Stephen A. Schwarzman

“At heart of this situation is a need to close a significant skills gap” Stephen Schwarzman, Blackstone chairman, CEO and co-founder told CNBC.com.

“Preparing youth for employment requires training that is demand-driven to meet the needs of companies and ensure that young people are taught marketable skills,” he said.

The man who founded Blackstone and is now considered one of the titans of Wall Street said young people need to be better equipped to deal with whatever life throws at them.

“The other serious missing link is teaching life skills as well as technical skills," Schwarzman said.

"Most youth are lacking critical life skills that make them employable and most importantly, able to keep a job – things like teamwork, decision-making and time management.”

Government Support

Governments need a comprehensive, long-term strategy, Schwarzman said.

“Underlying all solutions is the need for all institutions serving youth to advance a shared strategy that will alleviate the youth unemployment crisis and meet the employment needs of businesses through meaningful, long-term solutions,” he said.

With the majority of people across the world employed by small or medium-sized businesses, Schwarzman believes the politicians need to focus on this area.

“Another way to increase youth opportunities is to support existing small businesses, to help them grow through a mix of technical assistance, loans, equity financing. They in turn can employ larger numbers of youth as they grow,” he said.

Entrepreneurial Spirit

Entrepreneurship will be essential to any solution to the youth unemployment crisis, according to Schwarzman.

“In the current economic climate, we know that few new jobs will come from existing businesses making entrepreneurship programs not a luxury but a necessity,” he said.

“We need to be able to identify and support young people who demonstrate interest and aptitude in entrepreneurship and business creation and give them tools to follow this path throughout their educational experience,” Schwarzman added.

Entrepreneurial projects need to be supported by educational institutions and NGOs around the world — the policy environment has to be “friendly” to startups, according to Schwarzman.

"Education around entrepreneurship should start early, at secondary level and be very robust by college level”.

Walking the Walk?

With the private equity industry associated in the minds of many as costs cutters more used to firing than hiring, Schwarzman told CNBC he has tasked the Blackstone Charitable Foundation with helping young people find their way in the business world.

He has identified a number of projects that the Foundation is exploring.

The first investment was to replicate a successful university-based program that offers entrepreneurship as a viable career path using venture coaching and business advising services and brings in experts from the local business community.

"Blackstone is exploring a number of expansion possibilities for this program in particularly distressed regions where there are colleges and universities eager to build entrepreneurship services,” Schwarzman said.

Schwarzman added that another approach he is taking is to nurture and support entrepreneurship in various regions around the United States.

“In one instance Blackstone is considering creation of a statewide system that would tie together fragmented entrepreneurial support services to give access to promising young businesses where there is an active university innovation program,” he explained.

Blackstone is also in discussion to help a region rich in potential innovations but lacking a strong and expansive ecosystem, a project that would engage four universities to create clusters throughout the region that provide the expertise and support start-ups need to grow, Schwarzman added.

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