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Youth Employment Should Be a High Priority

Youth unemployment represents one of the most significant barriers to economic and social development throughout the world.

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The issue is structural in nature, and currently lacks sufficient coverage and resources to affect a solution.

Skills mismatches, labor regulations, and the current macroeconomic climate have resulted in an underutilization of this valuable resource pool of youths.

Over time, this will lead to a structural underdevelopment of human capital and the potential for global economic sustainability issues.

In addition to adverse economic impacts, this situation can have significant collateral damage socially.

Establishing a career can serve as a right of passage to adulthood in many cultures, and the lack of employment is among the causes of depression, societal disengagement and violence.

The current platform to affect youth unemployment is fragmented, with no coordinated effort integrating all of the influential stakeholder groups.

Its causes are not properly understood, nor are the critical long-term effects of a disengaged youth population.

A main goal of the Global Youth Employment Agenda is to elevate youth employment to a high priority issue.

The topic should be considered directly in policy meetings, in NGO budgets and, importantly, in corporate board rooms.

Greater private sector involvement is critical in order to incorporate the viewpoint of the employers and to allow for effective execution.

Cross-sector partnerships must be created.

Companies should proactively cooperate with academic institutions, NGOs, and governments to create new opportunities for youth and to better prepare the youth to take advantage of those opportunities.

Blackstone recently performed a strategic evaluation of its Charitable Foundation’s mission and re-directed its efforts to support entrepreneurship and job creation – a channel it sees as key for galvanizing and engaging youth.

In April 2010, The Blackstone Charitable Foundationannounced a 5-year, $50 million commitment to support entrepreneurship and self-sufficiency.

In addition, the Foundation is also developing large-scale entrepreneurship initiatives to build regional entrepreneurial ecosystems in places where we work and live.

Through partnership with the New Economy Initiative (NEI) for Southeast Michigan, the University of Miami, Wayne State University and Walsh College, The Blackstone Charitable Foundation made its first major grant to establish “Blackstone LaunchPad,” a program it hopes will become a national model for fostering entrepreneurship through higher education.

Based on Kauffman Foundation Research and University of Miami research data, Blackstone LaunchPad hopes to create 20 enduring start-up businesses per school year (each averaging 130 new jobs).

Over 10 years, the effort could produce as many as 26,000 jobs.

If the program is successful, and Blackstone were to deploy its entire $50 million commitment in the same manner, it could create 600,000 new jobs over time.

The private sector now has the opportunity to utilize its positioning to make a substantial impact on the youth employment problem.

Cross-sector partnerships can serve as invaluable resources and are capable of driving effective and scalable solutions.

Through global awareness and multi-faceted involvement, we can engage and train the youth population, at this critical stage in their development, to help drive long-term economic growth and sustainability.

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John Studzinski is Senior Managing Director and Head of Financial Advisory at Blackstone