A kick-start for young Brussels entrepreneurs

Summary

The regional government wants to get its young people thinking like entrepreneurs, and is funding a variety of projects in the capital to reach its goal

Fresh talent

By 2025, all youngsters in the Brussels-Capital Region should understand what it means to be an entrepreneur – that’s the ambition of the regional government.

To help achieve that goal, the government has established the Young Entrepreneurs of Tomorrow (Yet) initiative, which recently selected four projects to receive funding.

By encouraging entrepreneurship, the Brussels government wants to battle the high unemployment rate among youngsters – 28.2% according to the latest statistics. About one in five Brusselaars aged between 18 and 24 is not in work, education or training.

“Youngsters from technical and professional education have a lot of potential to become self-employed, but they aren’t sufficiently aware of the possibilities,” says Annelore Isaac, manager of information and networking at Brussels enterprise agency Impulse.

The Brussels government founded Yet at the start of the year, giving it an annual budget of €550,000. One of its main tasks was to increase the visibility of existing initiatives for young entrepreneurs and encourage them to work together. The Yet website currently lists about 70 projects from 30 organisations.

But with the largest part of its budget, €400,000, Yet is subsidising large-scale initiatives selected through an annual project call. The first winners of these subsidies were recently announced: Boost Your Talent

Creativity and self-knowledge

Yet’s work is based on the experience gained through the predecessor of the current Boost Your Talent project. The previous project, which ran from 2008 to 2015, focused on the canal zone in Brussels – still an economically underdeveloped area – and received its budget through the European Regional Development Fund. Its former co-ordinator Virginie Losson now manages the Yet project.

“The results of the previous Boost Your Talent project helped us to get our priorities straight,” she says. “We noticed that we didn’t reach enough teachers, who are essential in motivating youngsters, and also that the potential of secondary school students in technical and professional education remained underdeveloped.”

Youngsters from technical and professional education have a lot of potential to become self-employed, but they aren’t aware of the possibilities

- Annelore Isaac

To be selected, the projects had to have the expertise to set up workshops that encourage students’ creativity and self-knowledge. “These are essential skills, not only in setting up a company but in acquiring an entrepreneurial attitude, which helps you take the initiative more as an employee and in life in general,” says Losson.

The people behind Yet believe it’s important for initiatives to involve experienced entrepreneurs who can inspire young people, help them try out a concrete enterprise scheme and promote sustainable entrepreneurship that is beneficial to society. Projects should also battle stereotypes against women and young people from disadvantaged backgrounds.

The updated Boost Your Talent project will now use its knowhow to raise more awareness among secondary school students in technical and professional education, those in part-time education and students at university colleges. It will also develop training for students in teacher training, to ensure that future teachers are aware of the importance of entrepreneurship skills.

Outside schools

Instead of focusing on the canal zone, the initiative will cover the whole Brussels-Capital Region. It mostly caters to French-speaking education, but works for a Dutch-speaking target group in part-time education. The partners in the project are Groupe One,  Les Jeunes Entreprises, Step2You, 100,000 entrepreneurs, YouthStart and C-Davy.

The only completely Dutch-speaking winner in the project call is Jump Zo, set up by the non-profit Tracé Brussel, organisation for the self-employed Unizo and the agency for entrepreneurial training Syntra Brussel. The project will provide workshops to students in the third grade of technical and professional education and those in part-time education.

“Jump Zo will provide assistance about entrepreneurship to young people outside the school environment,” says Losson. “For our next call, we want to concentrate more on reaching these youngsters who no longer go to school.” Jump Zo will also inform teachers and coaches of youngsters outside school about entrepreneurship.

The other two subsidised projects, UStart Belgium and Positive Generation, primarily focus on French-language education for the moment. UStart is a student entrepreneur club which until now only set up actions in universities but will now also raise awareness about entrepreneurship in Brussels university colleges. The project is organised by UStart, Ichec management school and the start-up C-Davy.

Positive Generation will encourage youngsters to take action, by organising workshops or inspirational talks by entrepreneurs, to put social and sustainable entrepreneurship in the spotlight at university colleges. The two partners are Poseco and MakeSense.

Photo: The Yet launch event in Brussels earlier this month
© impulse.brussels