EY - Maria Pinelli

Let's get the next generation to work

By Maria Pinelli


20 January 2014

Who can forget their first job?

I am en route to Davos, where the World Economic Forum has put youth unemployment at the top of its timely agenda. This discussion could not happen soon enough.

In my global travels and within my own personal circle, it is devastating to watch young college grads sit on the sidelines, waiting for an opportunity to contribute to society. I am sure you would agree: this is not the future we had in mind for our next generation.

They have energy, fresh ideas and the best years of their lives to offer – and the world stands only to benefit from their advance into the global middle class.

Recent events remind me why job creation is so important.

In the US, the 50th anniversary of Lyndon Johnson's War on Poverty has prompted discussion over ways to overcome economic scarcity. On the world stage, Pope Francis is capturing attention with his call to address the "great injustices" of the economically disadvantaged and youth unemployment.

Entrepreneurs have hire power

I feel privileged in my role at EY, where I see firsthand the value of recognizing and guiding entrepreneurs. I know for a fact that entrepreneurs are an enviable engine of job creation.

The EY Entrepreneurs Of The Year – the world's most dynamic community of high achievers – were busy hiring at home (70%) and abroad (47%) in 2013. For our G20 Report, the young entrepreneurs we spoke with — ages 40 and under — are upbeat about the future of their businesses and their lives. And they share a conviction that their businesses have a vital role in addressing youth unemployment.

To do our part, EY is taking it a step further. We've found a way to recognize young businesses that are two years old, or more; a critical, often make-or-break juncture. This is a stage where just a little more attention is needed to ensure their business can really fly. We offer this support to a number of promising young companies through our Ready, Set, Grow program.

Through this initiative, we seek out companies from around the world who demonstrate promise, growth and sustainability. We ask an independent panel of successful entrepreneurs and business advisers to review these business plans and offer guidance on how to take the next big step – whatever and where ever that might be in the life cycle of their enterprise.

Certainly, access to capital is critical. But mentoring and broad community support are important, too. Changing a culture, tolerating failure and nurturing innovation are all factors in accelerating a promising enterprise – one that creates jobs and contributes to a local community (and beyond).

Who will give us the next big thing?

I am so heartened by the initiative of our young entrepreneurs. But I am realistic and know that they alone cannot solve the youth unemployment crises. While at WEF I will urge my fellow delegates to encourage greater understanding among government and business leaders on the barriers that young people face in starting and scaling their own businesses.

Some governments, including South Korea and Canada, are actively providing support, education and funding. Specifically, Korea's Small and Medium Business Corporation has helped more than 6,000 small and medium-sized manufacturers. In North America, the Canadian Youth Business Foundation offers young entrepreneurs financial support and mentoring.

Entrepreneurs did their part in leading us out of the Great Recession. Now we in the private sector should provide the new generation with the tools they need to give our world the next big thing.

No one looks forward to a society where an entire generation of youth is lost to inertia and poverty. Let's do something about it.

More blog entries from Maria Pinelli.