As youth artisans struggle, NGOs beef up business training

Value Chains

As youth artisans struggle, NGOs beef up business training

A Mexican weaver stands behind his loom. Photo: <a href="">Knoxville Museum of Art</a>
A Mexican weaver stands behind his loom. Photo: Knoxville Museum of Art

A new generation of artisans in the Global South are getting entrepreneurial training with their craft skills.

Worldwide, people aged 15 to 24 are nearly three times more likely to be unemployed than their older counterparts, according to a 2012 report by the International Labor Office. These figures are particularly alarming in developing nations where the ratio of young to old is highly skewed. To combat this problem, nonprofits are beginning to think outside the box. One idea: nonprofits that might simply have taught local youths the art of craft making, are now also incorporating entrepreneurial skill-building into the mix.

For instance, in Chiapas, Mexico, young female Mayan weavers are simultaneously learning weaving skills and business skills, like production oversight, retail management and an understanding of international marketing. This is part of an endeavor funded by the Kellogg Foundation and run by Aid to Artisans, a U.S.-based charity that works to create economic opportunities for artisans around the world.

Artisanship can be a way for young, lower-skill workers to create products that sell to richer cities or countries. But for those who try, learning a craft is only half the battle. "Young people need access to market-driven product development, business training and linkage to markets," Monika Steinberger, Aid to Artisans' director of program management and development, told the Financial Times. It is these skills that will enable artisans to sell their products in major cities around the globe, where consumers often demand competitive, high-quality goods.

This approach could yield successful results as young artisans propel forward, learning hard and soft skills they could one day use in other industries or professions. Not only do they gain technical training, they also boost their self-esteem as they begin to engage in the business side of craftsmanship.

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