For young people to have meaningful work, they need education, skills, and opportunity. They have to be ready to join the labor force, and there must be jobs for them to take.
Research at the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation shows that "nearly all new job creation in the United States has occurred in firms less than five years old." This means that entrepreneurship is critical to the employment of young people because it is basic to the generation of new jobs. Entrepreneurs will create the jobs of tomorrow.
This reality creates a fresh framework for understanding entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurship not only creates new jobs. It is itself a job. To enhance young people’s opportunity for productive work, it is important not only to teach them necessary basic skills, but also to help them see that creating jobs as an entrepreneur is important work in itself.
To expand the number of people who will explore the creation of new businesses and enterprises, the education of young people should legitimate entrepreneurship and legitimate it as a career path, a legitimate way of making a living.
The University of Miami has done this through the development of The Launch Pad, a component of the University’s Toppel Career Center.
The Launch Pad presents entrepreneurship as a viable career option and it encourages all members of the university community to start their new ventures—whether for profit or not for profit—in the university’s locality and thereby contribute to the economic and social growth of its region.
As fundamental component of UM’s career counseling, The Launch Pad reaches an unusually broad range of students and has generated an extraordinary response on the UM campus and in the local community.
The Launch Pad’s programs are co-curricular and voluntary by design. Pragmatic and concrete, they provide the just-in-time knowledge entrepreneurs need to assess and develop their ideas and plans for a new enterprise. The Launch Pad offers guidance and encouragement and brings entrepreneurs into the local business community as early as possible.
Through its unique experiential approach, The Launch Pad demystifies entrepreneurship and makes it accessible to the full range of students and young alumni at a time in their lives when hope and possibility are high and risk is relatively low.
The Launch Pad ignites interest, encourages exploration, and recruits entrepreneurs. It teaches learners not just how to find a job but also how to make a job. In its first two years, The Launch Pad helped create 45 new companies that generated 102 new jobs.
In a bold and visionary experiment that expresses fundamental commitment to expanding entrepreneurship , the Blackstone Charitable Foundation has provided funding to expand and adapt The Launch Pad's model to two universities in Detroit to draw more of Detroit's young people into rebuilding the economy of Southeast Michigan.
The author is.... (Bill Green is Senior Vice Provost and Dean of Undergraduate Education, University of Miami)