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Many Indonesian university students banking on a well-paid office job after graduation, especially during layoffs and a weakened economy brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, find themselves without options, or often without a clue what they should do next. Not all students, though. The clever ones sign up for business courses taught by Mardiyah Hayati. In her sessions, students do not just go through assigned exercises; they launch their own plans and take initial steps to succeed in the real world.

Her message to university graduates in Indonesia: opportunity knocks—but not always on an office door.

“The future of our nation is in the hands of the youth,” said Mardiyah Hayati, the 47-year-old lecturer and business incubator coordinator at the Universitas Trunojoyo Madura (UTM). “I want to help as many young people as possible gain valuable entrepreneurial skills.”

he is doing just that for students aged 18 to 30 under an entrepreneurship training program supported by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). As roughly half of Indonesia’s population of 270 million is under the age of 30, with youth unemployment hovering at around 20 percent, there is plenty of opportunity to help aspiring young start-up champions find their place in the working world.

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USAID, through the USAID Jadi Pengusaha Mandiri/Become an Independent Entrepreneur (USAID JAPRI) program, connects young women and men, including persons with disabilities, with institutions that can help them start and develop their entrepreneurship journey–all the way to their business grand opening.

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