America Behind the Curve: Filling in the World Job Gap

By Dr. Winslow Sargeant and Dr. Ayman El Tarabishy

600 million jobs…600 millions jobs is what the World Bank estimates will be needed in the next 15 years to fulfill the growing workforce. Small businesses and entrepreneurs will be the employers of the future. The United States celebrates the contributions of the nation’s small businesses every year during National Small Business Week. Going on more than 50 years, this tradition recognizes the small business contribution to our economy and highlights their undeniable impact on the future of the American workforce. As the United States prepares for its annual celebration, for the first time ever, the United Nations adopted a resolution designating June 27th as “Micro-, Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (MSME) Day.” More than 40 member states representing 5 billion people decided there needed to be an international day to annually represent these very businesses.

U.S. policymakers should not just watch as other nations take new steps and craft policy where MSMEs play a critical role. If America wants to remain a global leader, we must craft our own legislation that will sustain a robust American workforce. Congress has not passed a legislative overhaul on behalf of small business since 2010, and we need to be ahead of the curve. Unfortunately, we may already be behind the trend. Already, countries such as Argentina and Italy are taking the necessary steps to ensure they do not fall behind.

The Argentinian entrepreneurs’ law would enable entrepreneurs to start projects more easily while providing special avenues for companies that care more about their communities than their bottom line. In addition, Argentina is recognizing the value of startups by restructuring their employee payment system and also opening the door to crowdfunding, which will drive innovation and foster job growth in developing industry sectors.

Italy is creating new policy for economic development and competitiveness by targeting the startup community, more specifically any company in the technological innovation space such as software, manufacturing, or even agriculture. The Italian Ministry of Economic Development states that “supporting innovative entrepreneurship contributes to greater social mobility, strengthens the links between universities and businesses, makes people more inclined to take business risks, and contributes to making the country more attractive for foreign capital and talents.” For this reason, Italy’s Startup Act creates a regulatory blueprint that encourages the startup ecosystem and includes a structured system to monitor and evaluate these policies.

Today, we must answer the question of what American policymakers need to be doing to ensure our country remains a top job creator. New legislation should support social entrepreneurship on the small business level. A study by the International Council for Small Business (ICSB) showed that aligning corporate social responsibility activities with the competitive strategy of the firm leads to small and medium enterprise growth in the supply chain. While large companies have already instituted many of these practices and we know small businesses reap the benefits, small businesses also need to be provided the resources to enter this effort. We must provide avenues for small business to compete with large corporations, not create barriers to entry.

Part of gaining that competitive advantage is educating the children of today who will become the workforce of tomorrow. Our youth are changing the way we will build businesses and the traditional education platform may not suit them. For example, the youth in Finland are leading the way with Europe’s largest start-up event in Helsinki. Young people are coming together for a vibrant dialogue and exchange of ideas to promote entrepreneurship in Europe. It is not something they are learning in the classroom, but through a summit of their peers and seasoned professionals alike.

And, we must promote policies that focus on humane entrepreneurship. Normally, as Americans, we do not believe humane working conditions would be a concern for us, but humane entrepreneurship embodies many different elements such as work-life balance. Employers must provide an avenue for employees to recharge their batteries and respect this time instead of frowning upon it. If we want to keep a vibrant workforce, we must recognize that it is necessary to take time off for our families and ourselves, completely unplugging, and embracing the time away. For example, a recent study from ICSB Korea showed that humane entrepreneurship, is necessary for an enterprise to continue creating value and contributing to the happiness of employees and stakeholders. Humanism gives the liberty for free thinking for anyone, hence gives unlimited space for creativity and in turn leads to innovation.

So, as Congress gets ready to celebrate small businesses for a week like they do every year, let us use this opportunity to shape the conversation and put pen to paper. If we want to remain a leading nation, we must have jobs for the growing workforce, and we must support the small businesses that will create these jobs. So, happy Small Business Week, and please remember to stand with more than 40 other nations on June 27th as the world recognizes these businesses through United Nations Micro-, Small, Medium-Enterprises Day.

Dr. Sargeant is the Senior Vice-President of Development with ICSB and previously served as Chief Counsel for Advocacy at the U.S. Small Business Administration.

Dr. El Tarabishy is the Executive Director of ICSB and an Associate Teaching Professor of Management at the George Washington University’s School of Business.

The International Council for Small Business (ICSB) is a non-profit organization devoted to continuing management education for entrepreneurs and small business. The ICSB is a co-author of the resolution for United Nations MSME Day.