Engaging Youth: Going Beyond Skills

In Bangladesh, close to two million young people join the workforce annually. Many of the opportunities are not that of employment in the formal sector, but rather entrepreneurship in the growing informal service sectors.   BRAC works millions of youth and provides a range of activities, including many focused on income generation and livelihood.  Earlier this year, the Social Innovation Lab explored how BRAC’s programs are supporting entrepreneurship and where the opportunities are to do more. Where we learned the most was in speaking with current members of BRAC’s programs, such as the Adolescent Development Program, and listening to their stories.

Whenever we have talked to school children or their patents everybody shows interest to seek a job rather to be an entrepreneur. In Dhamrai, Dhaka, we met a girl, Rabeya (16), who is a member of ‘BRAC Kishori Clubs’, which are clubs for Adolescents to attend and run by BRAC Adolescent Development Program.Rabeya is a very bright student and tops in her class every year. She plans to pursue her career in the job market, but when we asked about using her talent in the business sector to play with innovation she was scared to even think about it.

In Chittagong, Halima Akhter (15) is receiving training from ‘Skills Training and Advancing resources’,  to be a tailor and she makes beautiful dresses. This program of BRAC is currently providing skills training to 1000 school dropout adolescents and ensuring income generation by engaging them into relevant market sector. But Halima thinks beyond this scope of just to work as an employee in a tailor shop. She dreams of having her own shop, though doesn’t equate that goal with entrepreneurship. Not only does she lack the finance to but also she lacks basic knowledge about business which eventually builds a lack of confidence within her and pursues her dream.

A young boy named Rashed living in Dhaka earns his livelihood helping out in grocery  markets. He has no intention to plan his own life. Listening to him we could get the idea of how important it is to make these kids understand the reality of life. A lot of the time it seems parents are discouraging youth to think about business as they think it is ‘risky’.

This actually helps us to understand participation of all levels of the society is needed. Understanding and knowledge about business is important and for this, business people need to share their business knowledge. Successful entrepreneurs need to be celebrated. A change of mind set is needed in every level of society, urban and rural, parents, teachers, students.

But just a change of mindset still won’t be enough.

At the workshop that the BRAC Social Innovation Lab arranged in April 2012, ‘Investing in Youth’, we met Sabila,  an energetic, young tech entrepreneur running her own company. But because of the lack of the system thinking about these emerging young entrepreneurs she is struggling to survive in the competitive market.

Learn more about Sabila, the developmental progression of young entrepreneurs, and much more in Beyond Skills: Supporting Youth to Become Successful Entrepreneurs in Bangladesh a new publication developed by the Social Innovation Lab.

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