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Students turn to entrepreneurship
Business Sense column

Date published: 2/10/2013

By Bill Freehling

IN THE FACE of a nearly 18 percent unemployment rate for people between the ages of 16 and 24, U.S. students are deciding to forge their own career paths.

According to a Gallup poll released in January, USA Today reported this week, 43 percent of students in grades five through 12 want to be entrepreneurs. More schools are offering classes on how to start a business, and the popularity of after-school entrepreneur workshops is rising.

To me this is fantastic news for the U.S., as I have long wondered how the country is going to reduce its unemployment rate to healthy levels (such as the one we enjoy in the Fredericksburg area).

The recession was definitely responsible for a big part of the spike in jobless rates, but it wasn't the only factor. As the country has been working its way out of a housing-induced economic collapse, the pace of changes in the world has accelerated.

The Internet and other technological advances have allowed many companies to literally do more with less, which has boosted the bottom line and likely led to some of the large gains that have occurred in the stock market (the threat of inflation and a lack of other attractive investments are other probable factors).

Many unskilled labor jobs that boosted the middle class for decades have simply disappeared. A flattening world has also allowed companies to outsource work overseas.

Surely some of the jobs will return as the economy improves. A housing recovery would greatly help with that. But even in an improved economy, many of those jobs simply aren't coming back. And students seem to realize that.

Instead, many students are looking to create their own careers. Happily, the Internet has made it easier for individual entrepreneurs with great ideas to make a go of it. Many students also seem to have realized that the traditional higher education path is often saddling participants with debt, useless degrees and a spot in the unemployment line.

Many entrepreneurs have spoken of late to the local Next Generation of Business Leaders group during the monthly Midweek Motivation event at Renato's. One of their messages is almost always that entrepreneurs shouldn't be afraid to fail or pursue their passion. Life is too short to work in some job you hate, even if you are lucky enough to get one of those jobs.

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