This week we have Victor Salama, NFTE’s Vice President of Business and International Partnerships, guest blogging for us to tell us about his recent trip to China for their 4th annual National Business Plan Competitiion.
I just came back from China having attended the Bright China Foundation’s (BCF) 4th annual National Business Plan Competition for its youth entrepreneurship program. What a fantastic experience! Having worked with BCF since it became a NFTE licensee in 2003, I knew that they ran excellent programs, and over the years I have had the opportunity to meet several graduates and some teachers. But being there in person at the competition was really eye opening.
The six finalists were smart, poised and had already gained valuable experience running their businesses. One finalist had already purchased a house with the profits that he has made through his business of selling wireless communications devices, while another one has been importing cosmetics from Korea for the past six months and was about to open her third storefront. Although my Mandarin is non-existent, and the students English language skills were spotty, they were able to share their passion for their endeavors and their gratitude for the opportunity to take an entrepreneurship course at their vocational schools.
And why is their success so important for China? While everyone has heard great stories about the impressive changes that Chinese society has undergone due to the economy’s tremendous growth, there’s an underlying uneasiness among the country’s youth about their future. Recent data from various sources has put unemployment rates among recent college graduates at between 30%-40%, a staggering number considering that the country produced 5.6 million college graduates last year and 6.1 million this year. Suicide rates have increased among college students, the increase directly tied to depression caused by the dim employment prospects.
It is more important than ever for China to produce a new generation of knowledgeable, business savvy youth who can launch businesses and become employers. Even at its current growth rate, the country’s economy cannot absorb all these new potential employees hitting the job market. The Bright China Foundation’s program is doing all it can to get its 14,000 vocational school students to think, and more importantly act like entrepreneurs, but one organization’s program cannot solve the unemployment challenges that lie ahead for Chinese youth. Entrepreneurship education must become a required course in Chinese secondary schools – we must give Chinese youth all the tools necessary to become job creators as opposed to just job seekers.