By Pamela J. Oakes, The Profitable Nonprofit
I run my own nonprofit consulting business. My brother runs his own real estate appraisal business. My father owned his own real estate company. One of my grandmothers ran her own hair salon. Another grandmother and grandfather owned a restaurant and my great-great grandfather was a country doctor and landlord. When it comes to entrepreneurship, you could say I was born into it.
While I have spent many (many) years in the corporate world, punching clocks, submitting timesheets, negotiating pay raises and begging for…I mean…requesting time off, there is something satisfying and extremely empowering knowing that I have the aptitude and competence to generate my own income. Sadly, entrepreneurial skills are quickly becoming a lost art.
In 2015, the United Nations adopted a set of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as targets for global development to promote prosperity while protecting the planet. Among these goals is a mandate to “substantially reduce the proportion of youth (aged 15 – 24) not in employment, education or training.” Unlike most SDG targets set for the year 2030, this particular target is set to be achieved by 2020.
Including a youth employment goal makes perfect sense. To quote the United Nations, “ending poverty must go hand-in-hand with strategies that build economic growth and address a range of social needs including education…and job opportunities.” The only problem I see is that in this day of corporate restructuring, layoffs, retrenchment and downsizing, people of color are usually the last ones to get hired and the first ones shown the door. Without a backup plan, unemployed youth very quickly become unemployed adults!
Entrepreneurship is a viable means to circumvent chronic unemployment in populations of color and needs to be REQUIRED learning in schools. Along with a mortarboard and a piece of paper, we should demand that our young people be “innovation ready” – meaning that they are equipped with the requisite abstract thought, problem solving, communication and collaboration skills that will enable them to invent their own careers.
Despite the billions of dollars pumped into our education system, U.S. high schools, colleges and universities are still primed to churn out employees NOT employers. Entrepreneurism can stimulate the economy by promoting economic opportunity. It can also serve as an agent of social justice and one way to dismantle the “preschool to prison pipe-line” disproportionately experienced by Black and Brown youth. Entrepreneur education benefits students from all socioeconomic backgrounds by helping them think outside-the-box, tap into their unrealized potential and nurture unconventional skills and abilities.
Taking a cue from Shirley Chisolm, the first Black woman to ever be elected to the U.S. Congress and the first woman to run for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination, entrepreneur education teaches how to be unbought and UNBOSSED!
Pamela J. Oakes, Managing Director of The Profitable Nonprofit, is a funding consultant helping small and emerging nonprofits achieve funding sustainability. Pamela previously worked with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
This article originally appeared in The Seattle Medium.