Östersund, Jämtland region (S), 29 August 2008
Although around half of Europe’s young people are interested in the idea of becoming entrepreneurs, less than 5% of youth are actually following that path. The Assembly of European Regions’ (AER) 13th Summer School and 7th Youth Summer School, which concluded today in Östersund (Jämtland, S), brought together over 150 politicians, officers, experts and young people (known as AER’s “Youth Ambassadors”) from regions across Europe to help change those statistics.
Focusing on youth entrepreneurship in the European regions, this year’s 5-day program offered a number of study visits and specialised workshops, along with around 20 presentations by guest speakers.
Joni Simpson, AER Summer School speaker (International Labour Organization):
“This summer school brings together leaders of tomorrow and allows them to exchange on a level playing field with decision-makers from their regions. Young women and men are interested in bringing about positive and sustainable change in the world, and this forum is a place to learn, exchange ideas, network and promote sustainable development practices across generations.”
This was the first time that the summer school and youth summer school were combined to meet the needs of both regional policy-makers and the young people affected by those policies. While AER’s youth ambassadors from the regions had the opportunity to create, develop and exchange ideas, their politicians and officers learned about the value of supporting youth entrepreneurship in the regions.
Klaus Klipp, AER Secretary-General:
“We want young people to be job creators, not job seekers. For regional authorities, youth entrepreneurship is an under-valued source of job creation, of combating ‘brain-drain’ and contributing to economic growth. So the AER member regions who’ve brought their youth ambassadors to this year’s summer school are investing not only in the future of their young people, but of their whole region.”
Eva Andrea Csep, Mures County Councillor (RO):
“We have a lot of young people in our region, so I want to present to my council the ideas I have brought back from this summer school and set up an entrepreneurship project with our region’s three universities.”
Shannon Visser, AER Youth Ambassador and young entrepreneur, Flevoland (NL):
“Meeting so many new people and hearing about their experiences has given me inspiration for my own business and for projects in my region.”
AER is offering a “Youth Ambassadors Project Award 2008” to encourage its youth ambassadors to develop and implement their youth entrepreneurship projects. Entrants will have the opportunity to present their submissions early next year, when a panel of European policy-makers will select a winning project.
Recognising the valuable role youth entrepreneurship can play in the regions, AER is also planning to initiate “peer reviews” in this area based on the successful methodology of AER’s peer reviews in other policy fields. Multinational review teams of policy experts from European regions would undertake study visits to host regions and provide advice on enhancing regional policies and practices in youth entrepreneurship.
Presentation documents and photos from the summer schools will be available on AER’s website Monday.
The Assembly of European Regions (AER) is the largest independent network of regions in wider Europe. Bringing together more than 270 regions from 33 countries and 13 interregional organisations, AER is the political voice of its members and a forum for interregional co-operation.
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AER in general
The Assembly of European Regions (AER) is the largest independent network of regions in wider Europe, promoting international and interregional cooperation in the fields of economic regional development, social policy and public health, as well as culture and education.
Since its creation in 1985, AER acquired considerable expertise in the field of regional governance, decentralization and territorial development – both within Europe and beyond. The underlying principle ensuring the success of AER’s work is that of organizing encounters and providing a platform where politicians, specialists and citizens can not only exchange knowledge on topics of common interest but also develop practical solutions to overcome respective challenges.
• 13th AER Summer School and the 7th AER Youth Summer School will take place in Östersund, Sweden, by the kind invitation of Jämtland County Council.
• This year the adult and youth AER Summer School participants will work together to develop and share best practice on the topic of Youth entrepreneurship in Europe's regions.
• By bringing regional policy makers and officers together with the young people affected by their policies, the Summer School will provide an opportunity to develop these policy ideas further, in a way that meets the needs of both the young people and the regional authorities.
The aim of the Summer Schools is to:
• Help regional administrations to better understand how they can encourage young people to undertake entrepreneurial activities, thus fostering job creation, combating ‘brain-drain' and contributing to economic growth.
• Help young people to understand how they can ensure that their own regions provide improved support to youth entrepreneurship.
Target Group of the Summer Schools:
• Regional youth and economic development officers
• Regional politicians engaged in youth entrepreneurship issues
• Young people from regional youth cabinets, parliaments and political parties
• The world is changing rapidly and education is facing new challenges it we moves into the 21st century.
• As structured employment opportunities decline, entrepreneurial skills become necessary for workers to compete in the workforce.
• The imagination, ideals and energy of young people are vital for the continuing development of our world.
• Much has to be done to change the mind sets of many in the economically active population that employment in the formal sector is the only available option to them for income and sustenance. Given the changing nature of work and growing presence of insecurity and low-wages, self-employment becomes increasingly attractive and needs to be marketed more.
• Opening opportunities to young people contributes to make Europe attractive for future generations and helps to prevent the brain drain.
• No country or region can rely solely on foreign direct investment as the engine for employment creation, and therefore there is a need to pay particular attention to the entrepreneurship potential of our own people and the overall environment for enterprise creation, growth and development.
• Young people carry the entrepreneurial torch naturally. They like the idea of running their own business – the feeling of hope, independence, and of being in charge. And they see entrepreneurship as a way to follow a dream. We need to nurture this curiosity and interest among young people by developing and supporting programs that give them early exposure to the risks, rewards, and critical thinking skills they need to succeed.
• We need to turn our people from job seekers into job creators.
Benefits of youth entrepreneurship:
• The stimulation of entrepreneurship is a critical element for employment creation.
• Entrepreneurship is not only about new entrants or start-ups but it is also about the ability of individuals to exploit new opportunities and developments in a manner that allows new enterprises to grow.
• Entrepreneurial education involves a unique blend of competencies and methods of problem solving for creating change and dealing with its consequences. It also involves many aspects and skills pivotal for a competitive work-force (i.e. personal organizational, time management, leadership development, interpersonal relationships).
• Entrepreneurship can show young people how academic skills connect to real business opportunities and hopes for success. Therefore students can be motivated to work harder in school. Entrepreneurship programs also give wide scope to student creativity and energy and offer a positive way for students to channel their talents.
• Furthermore, if designed well, Youth Entrepreneurships strategies can have a positive impact in a number of ways, namely:
o Consumers gain by increasing market competition
o The Community is provided goods and services
o The local community is revitalized and strengthened
o Innovation is promoted
o Social and cultural identity is strengthened
o Youth, especially at-risk youth, can be given a sense of meaning and belonging
• My reading of the Conference programme indicates that you are firmly focused on issues related to the creation a suitable environment for young people, to begin to take initiative to set up businesses on their own and to create jobs for others.
• The promotion of entrepreneurship among youth will serve to shift mind sets, as we noted earlier, whilst preparing youth to take advantage of emerging opportunities in an environment where government is committed to broadening ownership in the economy in order to make it inclusive of previously disadvantaged groups.
• Therefore we must view the promotion of youth entrepreneurship as part of a range of policies including investment into critical economic infrastructure, sectoral policies, the Expanded Public Works Programme, small business promotion, among others. Youth entrepreneurship can be made to be a more sustainable and effective project if it is aligned with these in ways that bring most benefits to youth.
• It is our hope that during this Conference greater clarity will also emerge regarding how youth can benefit from the broader national and provincial agenda to create employment through entrepreneurship.
• We should all be vigilant about the type of entrepreneurship culture that we wish to foster among our youth. Quite critically this is one that should be socially responsible and be committed to good corporate governance and ethical conduct in all their dealings.
• We also hope that together, we can work on strategies that will contribute to the creation of future policies and programmes in the area of youth entrepreneurship.
• May the remaining sessions of your Conference be fruitful and equally rewarding.