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Wayne Jones: Entrepreneurial education essential for Pittsburgh youth

Steven Adams | Tribune-Review
The Mexican War Streets neighborhood of Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto’s Gender Equity Commission recently presented findings on the city’s inequity across gender and race. Those findings revealed that although Pittsburgh’s white residents are on par with white residents in other cities, the same does not apply to black residents. Black people living in Pittsburgh face higher rates of occupational segregation and poverty and lower rates of employment and career readiness.

This matter comes as no surprise to those who live and work in the Greater Pittsburgh region. Gentrification is a case in point. Although the recent redevelopment upgrades of some inner-city areas within Pittsburgh have created new job opportunities and better living conditions, those who benefit are not the minority residents of those communities. Rather, gentrification has driven some of Pittsburgh’s black families from their neighborhoods with no other option than to relocate as investors make way for affluent home buyers.

Pittsburgh is composed of 90 communities. Forty-three of those communities are home to largely black families. Within those communities, 80,600 people live under the federal poverty line, and more than half of those people are paroled from prison or on probation.

Because of these challenges, it is important to equip youth, particularly those in Pittsburgh’s inner-city communities, with access to knowledge and skills that can help them create sustainable income upon graduating high school and beyond. Entrepreneurship education can serve as the first line of defense for inner-city youth to break the chains of poverty as well as take advantage of the many economic opportunities Pittsburgh offers.

Pittsburgh has blossomed into a city of possibilities for people with innovative ideas and the means to implement them. Those with an entrepreneurial mindset and an understanding of how businesses operate have an advantage. Because of this new era of opportunity, it is important to recognize entrepreneurship education as a vehicle for preparing youth as early as kindergarten to understand how each component of society and commerce is interconnected. Students need to learn how the real world functions through a holistic and hands-on learning environment so that it becomes ingrained in them.

There are several benefits to entrepreneurship education which can prepare students to thrive in Pittsburgh’s new economy. In fact, the Inflection Point 2017-2018 study subtitled “The Supply, Demand, and the Future of the Pittsburgh Region,” commissioned by the Allegheny Conference on Community Development, recognizes the importance of infusing classroom curriculums with relevant workforce information.

Students who have access to an education that allows them to develop an entrepreneurial mindset are more likely to obtain the knowledge they need to acquire business-relevant skills. Entrepreneurship education increases students’ ability to innovate and create employment opportunities for themselves and others. Employees who have an entrepreneurial mindset are typically better equipped than their peers to effectively contribute to Pittsburgh’s workforce and are more empowered to direct their future.

Instilling confidence in students should begin as early as possible. A confident student will grow into a self-reliant adult in tomorrow’s economy.

Historically, Pittsburgh’s black residents have persistently suffered lower education levels, lower wages and higher unemployment, compared to their white counterparts. Entrepreneurship education is an innovative and powerful means to change this narrative and level the playing field. Empowering today’s youth to develop an entrepreneurial mindset will lead them to invest in their communities in order to attain advancement and sustainable job opportunities for themselves and others.

Wayne Jones is CEO of Penn Hills Charter School of Entrepreneurship.

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