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Preparing The Next Generation Of Creative Entrepreneurs "It is the digitally savvy youth who have creative innovative ideas, and economic dynamism to establish businesses that can create jobs to millions, and set the path to economic, social, and environmental prosperity."

By Mai Youssef

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The youth of today are witnessing a major turning point in our world, as they are transitioning from their educational journey toward building successful and rewarding lives and careers. They are also witnessing an evolving workplace, increased unemployment, and the emergence of new, tech-focused jobs roles that they need to be trained and skilled for.

It is estimated that approximately 600 million jobs need to be created over the next 15 years to meet youth employment needs. This is an ambitious number, and therefore it is the collective responsibility of governments, corporations, and even individuals to pave the way for future generations to succeed and have viable employment opportunities.

While education-based initiatives have always been a key pillar for us at Canon, we have evolved this concept to support the global youth employment needs, and highlight youth entrepreneurship as an opportunity for them to explore their creative aspirations, explore future job prospects, and gain experience launching their pilot business concepts, which is where they can nurture their entrepreneurial skills.

We launched AKTASHIF, which means "discover" in Arabic, to coincide with World Youth Skills Day this year, to complement the global initiative to empower youth, and highlight the significance of their contributions in overcoming economic and social challenges.

As a first-of-its-kind program in the region, AKTASHIF is a community-oriented initiative designed to equip young people with the tools and techniques needed to unleash creative careers, as well as create the next generation of storytellers and content creators in the region. It will also allow them to get ahead and face modern-day challenges through relevant training and mentorship.

The program is primarily targeting 14 to 24-year-olds in the Middle East, and provides a focal point for Generation Z to develop their interests, strengthen their creativity, and inculcate in them the spirit of entrepreneurship. This is particularly significant, given the increased preference for youth to explore careers outside of the standard 9-5 office working environment, and seek freelance work or set up their own business.

AKTASHIF takes youth on an entrepreneurial journey through four modules: Discover Your Creative Voice, Start Your Creative Journey, Pursue Your Creative Passion, and Unleash your Creative Career. Collectively, these will lead the participants through the process of designing and launching a successful creative business, primarily within the imaging industry, but the training equally serves other interest areas, since the concepts are universally applicable.

Related: Five Winning Behaviors Of Successful Entrepreneurs

The first module challenges participants to find their artistic voices, whereas the second and third modules will guide them through the process of developing a business concept and portfolio, and the fourth module will help them launch their own enterprise and build a website. The aim with each module is to elevate the participants to the next level, allowing them to discover their ambition, and help them pursue their career of choice.

With digital media being central in engaging the youth in the region, each module will include video episodes, providing insights for content creators and creative entrepreneurs. The program also features esteemed mentors from the region, including storyteller Clinton Lubbe, renowned photographer and filmmaker, who will guide participants with several techniques to master their craft.

To complement the program, Canon has launched the In Studio with Canon podcast as another tool to reach more youth, and spread awareness about the initiative and the importance of building an entrepreneurial skill set.

In this instance, AKTASHIF participants can make their business concept a reality by pitching their creative entrepreneurial idea to a panel of judges as part of a competition upon completing the four modules. One winner will be selected to receive an AED15,000 cash prize, AED15,000 worth of Canon products, and an annual membership of a local entrepreneurship incubator to get their creative business idea off the ground.

Some may ask why the focus on entrepreneurship in youth, given they have many years ahead of them to build their capabilities. The answer is very simple. Youth today are growing up against a backdrop of a weaker economy and high unemployment rates, coupled with a rapid adoption of digital technology. If they are going to be given a chance to succeed in the future, their education, training, and preparedness to build a viable and sustainable social and economic environment needs to start today.

Entrepreneurial know-how is critical in defining our future and creating solutions to key issues of our time, such as climate change, technology, and equal opportunity, for instance. It is the digitally savvy youth who have creative innovative ideas, and economic dynamism to establish businesses that can create jobs to millions, and set the path to economic, social, and environmental prosperity.

Youth entrepreneurship is also an opportunity to achieve the objectives of the United Nation's Sustainable Development Goals, and meet job creation objectives on a global scale, as well as answer to nation level objectives such as Vision 2030 in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait Vision 2035, and Vision 2021 in the United Arab Emirates– all of which place significance on youth taking a leading role, and making an impact in their home country, and the world.

Related: Social Entrepreneurship Has A Key Role To Play Enabling Our Business Ecosystem's Recovery After COVID-19

Mai Youssef

Corporate Communications and Marketing Services Director, Canon Middle East and Central and North Africa.


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