No longer alone: turning ideas into successful start-ups is already a reality

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Miriam Cresta, JA Italia. [JA Europe]

The health emergency caused by COVID-19 has drawn attention to flaws in the education system. Limited investments in the development of digital infrastructures as well as failing to update the most innovative learning strategies – especially digital ones – have placed Italy in the lower tiers of the world raking for e-learning and home-schooling.

Miriam Cresta is the CEO of Junior Achievement (JA) Italy. 

For the entire duration of the long school lockdown (March to September 2020), around 2 million children and young adults have been lamentably left out, together with their families, of education programmes. High levels of school truancy and the constant increase in the number of people not in education, employment or training (NEETs) point to deficiencies in the professional counselling of young people through the simultaneous training of their soft skills.

Junior Achievement has been able to measure the positive impact – also in relation to socio-economical development – of investments in experimental lab programmes targeting social competencies, creativity and financial knowledge, as the best recipe to support young people in the pursuit of their school education. According to Human Foundation, for each euro invested in entrepreneurship programmes, 4.3 euros are injected in the country’s economy.

The implementation of these practices in schools may well contribute to slow down the increase in NEETs, and help turning them into “potentially employed” young adults.

Based on this approach, the “Match the Future” programme has been developed in Italy as the national transposition of the European “NEETs in Entrepreneurship” project, in order to support young people who have dropped out of school or work by restoring their self-esteem and initiative of initiative since these are crucial leverage points for the reactivation of their “frozen” potential. This project is funded by Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway through the EEA and Norway Grants’ Fund for Youth Employment. By its completion in 2021, we will have met 400 young people who will have experimented with different levels of initiative and creativity, up to reaching a level of autonomy in their work and having found support in launching a start-up.

Today, we can already be proud of two young people, Emanuele and Domenico, who are ready to launch their start-ups thanks to the financial support from the NEETs in Entrepreneurship project, after they followed our entrepreneurship learning programme and won the business competition of “Match the Future”. VISES Onlus has also contributed to this victory – a network of managers who volunteer as mentors and path consultants for young people in this project, in the name of an intergenerational solidarity that is much needed today.

Thanks to the NEETs in Entrepreneurship project we could also involve young people like Johanna, who in January attended the “FROG” training on leadership and motivation, imported from our Norwegian project partner Lyk-Z Daughters. According to Johanna “FROG has been a meaningful journey, a good mixture of thoroughness, laughs, involvement, and most of all an opportunity for personal growth. I had the feeling I could bring home something extremely precious. I could fill my invisible rucksack with many tools for everyday life and I made new friends. I would recommend this programme to anyone, regardless of where they are in life”.

We do not want to stop here. In the autumn and next spring we plan on offering once more our cycle of webinars on entrepreneurial education, followed by what we call a “Business Competition” – a contest for entrepreneurial ideas with ten scholarships to give tangible support to ideas and projects developed by young people and thus sustain their future.

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