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Interview with Aaron McNeilly, Sherpa of the G20YEA summit in Australia

“Transforming jobless young people worldwide into entrepreneurs”

The ambitious aims set out by the G20 Young Entrepreneur Alliance - G20YEA - sound breathtaking. Youth unemployment should be cut to below 10% by 2030. In an interview with International Trade News Aaron McNeilly, Sherpa of this year's G20YEA summit in Australia, explains how this will be achieved: By transforming young jobless people worldwide into young entrepreneurs. There are already several examples.

ITN: Mr. McNeilly, the G20 Young Entrepreneurs’ Alliance demands the reduction of global youth employment to below 10% by 2030. This sounds ambitious, if not utopian. Are you really convinced that this will not be idealistic fiction?

Aaron McNeilly: Not at all. Driving youth unemployment globally down to 10% by 2030 is certainly achievable. I am quite excited because this year, given the current high youth unemployment rates and the position that they have in global media, we have the opportunity to really take action now.

ITN: But how?

Aaron McNeilly: Well, we are quite a large army. Firstly, G20YEA is advocating this goal through the G20 countries, inducing them to acknowledge the youth unemployment agenda and commit to addressing this. We are providing them and their governments with tenable action plans. Alongside that, G20YEA is also working on a wide platform on which we will be tasking across to the administrator of the UN development programme, Helen Clark, at our G20YEA summit this very July. The UN is involved because it is developing the post-2015 to 2030 Millennium Development Goals.

ITN: Could you be a little more precise about the concrete measures to tackle youth unemployment?

Aaron McNeilly: Certainly. Take trade globalization, for instance. I am talking about the ability to have young people to be out across borders via start-up bases. That will help young entrepreneurs in terms of labour ability so that they don’t get stuck in their home countries.

ITN: Is this a strategy to overcome the shortage of labour in a way that young Greek people can move to Australia if their skills are needed there?

Aaron McNeilly: Yes, that is what we are trying to push with the suggestion of a multilateral start-up visa. I think that young people have a different perspective from the older working population. They are less burdened and less restricted in their thinking. Their ability to ignite this form of labour movement across borders will allow different perspectives and also various opportunities to occur.

ITN: What else has to be done?

Aaron McNeilly: It is also about developing a supportive entrepreneur culture. In Australia, for example, entrepreneurship is somewhat not considered a positive thing given how ambitious you need to be sometimes with your business. So we hope to appeal to our government to achieve good cooperation between the private and the public sector. We need a supportive entrepreneur culture that celebrates failure. This means gaining knowledge about how to progress and commercialize innovation and learning how we fail as well. These are the type of issues that we are trying to push.

About Aaron McNeilly

Aaron McNeilly is entrepreneurial operations executive officer at the Enterprise Network for Young Australians (ENYA) and Sherpa of this year's summit of the G20 Young Entrepreneurs’ Alliance (G20YEA) in Australia. G20YEA is a global network of young entrepreneurs. It was established to convene each year in advance of the G-20 Summit, with the aim of championing the importance of young entrepreneurs to the G20 member nations and to share examples and practices.

ITN: Let us talk about the core strategy being pushed forward by your organization to reach the 2030 goal. You say that unemployment can be reduced mainly by turning jobless people into young entrepreneurs. That even sounds less manageable than the 2030 goal itself.

Aaron McNeilly: Of course, in some countries such as Greece and Spain that have incredibly high youth unemployment rates. But there are strong initiatives that help many young people to gain a foothold. Take the European Commission DG connect initiative, for instance, which supports digital enterprises in Europe. It has already helped young people to start their own businesses. Youth Business International (YBI) based in the UK is also worth naming. Within the last year, YBA was able to help 40,000 businesses to start up. This initiative is royal-financed, with Prince Charles functioning as the patron. Five of our G20YEA members also belong to Youth Business International.

ITN: Now, can you tell us about a jobless young man or woman who became a successful entrepreneur?

Aaron McNeilly: There is this 28-year-old gentleman called Jamie Greene who lives in Melbourne, Australia. Three years ago he found himself on the street, living on park benches at the age of 25. This is a time in your life when you think everything is possible. But unfortunately, not for him, since difficult family circumstances did not allow this. He went through a rock-bottom time of life instead. Today, he runs quite a successful business called One Night Stand. It’s a clothing manufacturing business that uses 100% sustainably sourced cotton from across the globe. The company is creating sleepwear from that. And a proportion of these profits flows into the funding of homeless youth.

ITN: Did he ask you for help?

Aaron McNeilly: Yes. What my organization actually does to help in cases like that is to talk to large banking institutions about providing young people with low interest rate loans. We also consult our large network alliance and seek out mentors as well as successful businesses in saying: “Hey, can you lend this young person a hand? They need mentorship. They need support to master the initial part of their business.” Our organization also has a free help line for anyone who is in need of assistance. So, we are not an exclusive club, and there is no particular membership that you need to get. It is an open gate community, so to speak.

ITN: Let us come back to the G20 summit in November. What is the most important measure that the G20 leaders should take in this regard?

Aaron McNeilly: To acknowledge the youth unemployment crisis and commit to action of this.

ITN: That has not happened before? The financial crisis started in 2008. Haven’t they done anything in the meantime?

Aaron McNeilly: During 2008, the global economy was in somewhat of a panic stage. The G20 countries were not quite sure what to do. But the G20YEA alliance was able to pool their forces together at that time and also to create harmony. I am proud to say that we were job creators during the time of the financial crisis. It is a fact that businesses that have been operating for five years or less were among the job creators. So, G20YEA takes a close look at the statistics to prove to the G20 leaders what young entrepreneurs and young businesses can achieve in tough economic times. It is also clear that we are now facing basically a lost generation which has undergone high and uncontrolled waves of unemployment, especially in Spain or Greece. Now it is time to take action.

ITN: At their summit in November, the G20 leaders will also discuss the Brisbane Action Plan. This should help to raise the level of G20 output by at least 2% above the currently projected level in the next five years. They talk about “a boost of over $2 trillion to global GDP with the promise of millions of additional jobs.” What should the Brisbane Action Plan include in your opinion?

Aaron McNeilly: It’s the acknowledgment from the G20 leaders that clear action needs to be taken on the youth unemployment crisis. Young people need investment and financial support to establish their enterprises. We also ask the G20 leaders to work with us in reducing the tax burden on labour for both employers and employees to be capitalizing on the innovation and the commercialization of businesses.

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