We may have made a vaccine but, as a light appears at the end of a very long tunnel it is clear to us that the economic repercussions of Covid-19 will long outlast the pandemic. Young people have been especially hard hit by the events of last year.
On top of the risks of Covid-19, they have faced interrupted education, missed exams, a reduction in job prospects and negative coverage in the media. Research from London School of Economics shows that young people are more than twice as likely to have lost their jobs during the pandemic.
But all is not lost. With an entrepreneurial spirit, young people can find new opportunities to succeed and thrive. The current climate is producing more young entrepreneurs than ever before. As the traditional 9 to 5 looks increasingly less stable, more people are making the leap and starting their own businesses.
At the core of the entrepreneurial spirit is the ability to problem solve. That means being able to overcome adversity by finding solutions to issues – something our young people have already proved adept at when battling the hurdles of Covid-19.
Technology has also fast-tracked the route to becoming an entrepreneur in a way that would have been unthinkable 20 or 30 years ago. With a small amount of capital for example through crowdfunding and a working internet connection, technology is empowering a new generation of young entrepreneurs to innovate from their homes or through co/working spaces.
But while young people are responding admirably to the pandemic, we cannot expect them to go it all alone. We need to assist and help them find and foster their passions before they step out into the business world, ensuring that when they do take the leap, they are prepared for the challenges that come their way. Because while an enterprising mindset is important, it is passion that will enable our young people to achieve anything they set their mind to.
Being a good entrepreneur is also about being a good person, and we at Calvin•Farel would much rather invest in a good person with an average idea than someone with a good idea that we don’t really like. But the key rule for anyone thinking about going into business is to learn to fail. Entrepreneurs are going to fail at some stage so learn from their failures and use them to help them grow their business.
It is now in the upcoming year critically important that we at Calvin•Farel build the right connections between businesses and educational institutions. Young people need role models and advocates who they can talk to and learn about the world of business. This will help them learn the right skills and mindset at an early age, and gain important experience of the world of work before they leave education.
Business leaders play an important role in bridging this gap between education and the world of work, helping the next generation of business leaders to grow.
Last year’s mass experiment with remote working has, for some, triggered a prickling sense of unease: if I can do my job from home in Zurich, London, Dubai or Canberra, could someone else do it more cheaply from Mumbai or Manila?
This kind of “new” offshoring is more likely to grow in the future through platforms such as Upwork, Fiverr among others, which connect employers and entrepreneurs as well as start-up companies with freelancers for task-based work and take a cut of the pay. Engaging freelancers is far more flexible and avoids the risk of an outsourced office being closed. Upwork and Fiverr reported 24 and 88% year-on-year revenue growth in the third quarter last year and their share prices have risen sharply. The platforms open up opportunities to those with in-demand skills who want the freedom to freelance or jumpstart their entrepreneurial career – especially valuable for talented people in poorer and emerging countries.
Office jobs aren’t going to disappear, but the last year might persuade a new trend by which companies shrink their “core” of permanent staff and expand their periphery of on demand workers based anywhere. This confluence of globalization and casualization could have big consequences, especially for younger and lower-skilled white-collar workers who need to catch-up fast. Unlike the decline of manufacturing, it will happen quietly inside homes rather than on the factory floor. But it will be no less painful for that.
So while young people have been unfairly affected by the pandemic, Covid-19 has also presented a great opportunity for change. Let’s use this year by not wasting that opportunity. Instead, let’s take action and support young people by giving them the skills, support and mind set they need to succeed. If we do that, we will have all played our part in creating a new, exciting generation of business leaders.