x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Injaz and Khalifa Fund helping UAE school leavers graduate to entrepreneurship

The Life: Injaz, a region-wide educational organisation, is teaming up with the Khalifa Fund to help young entrepreneurs start a business

Injaz teach youngsters about the practical aspects of starting a company, hoping these skills can then be transferred to projects.
Injaz teach youngsters about the practical aspects of starting a company, hoping these skills can then be transferred to projects.

Moving from an academic environment to the practical workplace can often be a huge leap for youngsters more used to the classroom than the boardroom.

To help wide-eyed school students manage this transition, two of the UAE's entrepreneurship foundations have signed an agreement to help young Emiratis find work.

Injaz, a member of Junior Achievement Worldwide, the world’s largest non-profit business education organisation, has signed a memorandum of understanding with the Khalifa Fund to Support and Develop Small & Medium Enterprises to help aspiring entrepreneurs move from school and university directly into launching small businesses.

After the civil unrest that has swept across much of the Mena region, youth unemployment has become a key issue for governments.

Injaz goes into schools to help Emiratis develop key skills such as communication, financial literacy and citizenship so that they might be better prepared to search for jobs or places in higher education.

Volunteers from the business community give teach youngsters about the practical aspects of starting a company, such as pitching to investors, writing a business plan and even how to float shares on the stock market.

Injaz hopes these skills can then be transferred to projects that the Khalifa Fund offers to aspiring entrepreneurs.

Details of the tie-up have yet to be finalised, but Sulaf al Zubi, the chief executive of Injaz in the UAE, says the fund has the resources to help Emirati school and university leavers to start their own businesses.

Beyond interest-free loans to entrepreneurs, the fund provides training in starting a business through classes in marketing, accounting and balance-sheet management.

Young entrepreneurs moving from their Injaz training to the Khalifa Fund is a natural progression in building the skills required to set up new companies, Ms al Zubi said.

Last month, the fund unveiled 10 business start-up ideas, inviting entrepreneurs to compete for the right to turn the concepts into commercially viable enterprises.

The 10 industrial projects, including the production of adhesive tape, aluminium foil containers and baby bottles, are among 50 initiatives in the Tasnea programme, which is designed to strengthen the UAE's manufacturing sector.

The number of Arab youths entering the job market in the next decade is expected to be vast.

Ms al Zubi says that about 100 million young people will enter the Arab world's job market over the next 10 years, many in economies in which jobs will be scarce.

If schoolchildren can develop skills not only for the workplace but to start their own businesses, they will have a better chance of developing careers, Ms al Zubi said.

"For five years we have been under the radar in the UAE," she said. "We are now hoping more and more volunteers will help Injaz."

Since 2006, Injaz has reached more than 6,000 students in 15 UAE schools with the assistance of 547 volunteer mentors.

Regional joblessness is about 10 per cent, according to figures from the UN's International Labour Organisation, while youth unemployment in some Mena countries is as high as 40 per cent.

Economic growth in the Mena region is expected to reach about 5 per cent next year, below the rate needed to absorb the region's young job seekers.

rjones@thenational.ae