Opinion: Climate ripe for young entrepreneurs in Canada

Bank of Canada Governor Stephen Poloz’s recent suggestion that unemployed  young graduates consider working for free has, unsurprisingly, stirred much  debate across the country.

The slow pace of our economic recovery has undoubtedly made traditional jobs  harder to come by for many young people. However, the debate about whether  volunteer work can or should substitute for an entry-level job has missed an  attractive option available to Canadian youth: working for themselves.

A growing number of young people are bypassing the tough job market and  instead using their innovative ideas and hard work to launch and expand their  businesses.

Global Entrepreneurship Week starts today, when 140 countries celebrate their  innovators and job creators. This is the perfect time to discuss how Canadians  can better support young entrepreneurs and encourage more people to consider  entrepreneurship as a career option.

Over the past year, Futurpreneur Canada (formerly the Canadian Youth Business  Foundation) brought hundreds of young entrepreneurs and others together to  identify the best ways to support and expand youth entrepreneurship.

In helping create Unlocking the Power of Youth Entrepreneurship: An Action  Plan for Canada, entrepreneurs told us three things will help more young people  become successful business owners:

• Building confidence in entrepreneurship as a viable career path;

• Earlier and continuing education and experience;

• Access to the capital and connections required to support the launch and  growth of enterprises.

Entrepreneurs aren’t afraid of hard work or long hours, but there are some  things they can’t do on their own. We need to continue this national  conversation about how government, businesses, and academic institutions can  work together to make entrepreneurship a more viable, attractive career  option.

As young entrepreneurs tell me every day, there’s no experience as  exhilarating or challenging as starting a company and being your own boss.  Canada’s costs of starting a business are among the lowest in the G20 but our  youth unemployment rate is more than double that of older age groups. It’s time  to encourage young people to start their businesses instead of working for  free.

Julia Deans is CEO of Futurpreneur Canada, which has provided mentoring,  financing and support to help young people launch more than 5,750 businesses and  create more than 27,600 jobs since 1996.

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