Entrepreneurship Is Good For What Ails The U.S.

How can a bus tour, a book, and a crowdfunding initiative help reverse the trend of youth unemployment and underemployment? Scott Gerber and the folks at the Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) believe their new #FixYoungAmerica campaign will spark an entrepreneurial revolution in 2012 and be part of the solution to restore the “American dream” to millions of young people.

Taking it to the streets

Of course you can’t have a revolution without a cross-country bus tour. Led by Washington-based nonprofit group Young Invincibles, #FixYoungAmerica will visit 10 cities including Seattle, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Boston to raise awareness of an initiative they’re spearheading called The State of Young America which is a study they did with Demos. They’ll also be focusing on the state of youth underemployment and helping the YEC lobby for the Youth Entrepreneurship Act. 

Among the items on their agenda, they’re targeting student loan forgiveness for young entrepreneurs, supporting franchise ownership for veterans and youth, developing a set of best practices for colleges to graduate more entrepreneurs, and expanding Self-Employment Assistance (SEA).

On Thursday, the entrepreneurial movement gained momentum when the House of Representatives passed the Jumpstart Our Business Startups (JOBS) Act by an overwhelming margin, voting 390-23 to approve the legislation. If enacted, the bills would make it easier for small businesses and entrepreneurs to raise money. 

Integrating entrepreneurship into the college curriculum  

In a 2011 survey conducted by the YEC, 88% of respondents indicated entrepreneurship education is vitally important given the new economy; however, 74% of those students felt they had no access to entrepreneurship resources on campus.

Although campuses such as the University of Rochester, Wake Forest University, Howard University, Florida International University, University of Texas at El Paso, Washington University in St. Louis, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, have been able to make entrepreneurship education available across their campuses thanks to grants made possible by the Kauffman Foundation, the results of the YEC survey underscore the need for more support.

Creating an entrepreneurial brain trust

At the heart of the #FixYoungAmerica campaign is the idea of bringing together 33 of the country’s most hardworking entrepreneurs to help solve youth un- or underemployment, which has is at the highest it has been in 60 years.

“The Young Entrepreneur Council's #FixYoungAmerica initiative has brought together many of America's smartest entrepreneurs, academics, philanthropists, and politicians, all of whom have executed real and proven solutions in their respective fields to help solve youth unemployment," said Gerber. "It is time we change the negative discourse surrounding youth unemployment in this country into one of practical solutions rather than partisanship and rhetoric. We aim to fuel that positive conversation and encourage others to actively participate.”

Harnessing technology to propel a movement

LegalZoom gave #FixYoungAmerica’s crowdfunding initiative a shot in the arm by ponying up $20,000 out of the gate, which means they’re well on their way of achieving their fundraising goal of $30,000--and they still have more than 50 days left in their campaign. 

If there’s one group that’s perfectly poised to leverage social media to start a conversation around an hot button issue, it’s Gen Y. In addition to their crowdfunding efforts, #FixYoungAmerica has developed a Pass The Baby campaign to get people to share ideas and spread the word across their social networks.

What about you? Do you think entrepreneurship can help reverse recent trends in youth unemployment?

Find Shawn at shawngraham.me or continue the conversation on Twitter.

[Image: The Young Entrepreneur Council]

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