Celebrating World Youth Skills Day With Young Entrepreneur Brett Kim

On World Youth Skills Day, we are celebrating the organisation NFTE through one of their young social entrepreneurs, Brett Kim

July 15th marks the World Youth Skills Day and honouring this day, Youth Time interviews Brett Kim, an extraordinary young activist from San Diego, California, who led winning teams in several NFTE World Series of Innovation competitions during his junior and senior years in high school.

This competition is a series of online innovation challenges open to anyone ages 13-24. A whole new set of challenges with a prize pool of more than $20,000.

As Kim is entering the freshman class at Harvard University in the fall, he and his teammates remain deeply involved in entrepreneurship. 

They have been active in a San Diego business incubator dedicated to diversity, equity and inclusion. They have also continued entering national and international competitions, earning recognition in the Cooper-Hewitt Design Challenge as well as several hackathons.

In this piece, Kim shares the inspiration for his entrepreneurial career and how it is going so far, and also, how these two paths meet – University plus entrepreneurship engagement.

In addition, he shares how the NFTE World Series of Innovation has kick-started his social entrepreneurial career and developed him professionally and personally.


The Passion for Entrepreneurship

Kim’s inspiration for a career in entrepreneurship comes from a never-ending desire to explore and effectuate change.

“Through my entrepreneurial career to date, I have engaged with problems ranging from social belonging to urban sustainability to equitable financial systems. 

“Each problem with which I engage leads to new conversations that challenge my thinking and approaches, and fascinating technologies that informs my solutions,” Kim says.

He sees this as a round-trip journey.

“I see a problem, explore it, converse with experts across different fields, brainstorm possible solutions, and create a product with real impact. That drive to continue exploring and creating has kept me passionate about entrepreneurship.”

His journey has been such an exciting and meaningful one.

“It has led me to publish an app with my company, intern with both start-ups and start-up incubators, and volunteer with amazing entrepreneurial education organisations like NFTE.

“It has informed my decision to continue my journey at Harvard, and Harvard will undoubtedly shape the next legs of my journey in ways I probably can’t even imagine right now.”


A Supportive Team in the Face of Challenges

Naturally, successful and inspiring stories such as Kim’s rarely come without challenges. He elaborates how his path was challenging.

“The challenge of making is a lot different than ideating,” he says.

“Transitioning from examining problems theoretically to creating actual solutions in the real world has definitely been a stretching learning process.”

In this regard, he shares two things:

“First, creating real-world solutions is often an iterative process that takes a lot of time and patience, and necessarily involves mini “failures” through which you need to work.

“For example, we ideated the first version of our coding fundamentals application at a hackathon. 

“Winning Best Mobile App there helped validate that our idea had potential, and was part of the reason why we got accepted into the start-up incubator where we were able to further develop the concept. 

“Our team’s biggest challenge at the start-up incubator was not creating our initial minimum viable product, but constantly improving our product based on customer feedback and market trends.”

Which brings him to his second point – the power and beauty of the team.

“Apart from awards and recognitions, hackathons and design challenges helped our team learn to truly gel with and support each other. We learned to really draw upon each other’s strengths. 


“Spending all night trying to iron out bugs in the code of our start-up ideas helped improve our ability to communicate and collaborate in less high-stress situations.”


NFTE and Kim’s Paths

As Youth Time announced in June 2021, NFTE is supporting more than 100,000 young people with education around the world, and Kim is thankful that the NFTE World Series of Innovation has kick-started his social entrepreneurial career.

He says that it created a space for him to develop different parts of himself both professionally and personally.

“There is often not a lot of room in the busy lives of high school students and in the current school system for social entrepreneurial ideation. 

“With packed curriculums and standardized tests as well as time-intensive after-school activities like sports or robotics, thinking outside of the established material can be hard to fit into the schedule.”

For one, NFTE changed the way he approaches problems.

“I remember initially learning about all of the different categories of NFTE’s entrepreneurship competition, watching the corresponding videos introducing us to each social problem. 

“Rather than simply memorizing facts and analysing problems, I was challenged to change them.”

Hence, he began seeing a wide range of problems that previously were not at the forefront of his thinking.


Celebrating a More Skilled Youth

As today we are celebrating the importance of equipping young people with skills for employment, Kim believes it is vitally important to celebrate people learning employable skills.

“Learning programming, for one, has helped me get a foot in the door of many organizations and allowed me to formulate a number of my innovations.

“My web development skills helped me serve a local swimming team, my town council, a start-up incubator in Northern Virginia, and a stealth start-up,” he adds.

Further, he encourages young people to pick up employable skills which primes them to begin impacting the world.

“It empowers young people to chase after the problems they care deeply about, and makes work and school feel less like obligations, but gateways to tapping into their true passions and improving the world around them. 

“It is also crucial that a wide diversity of young role models be widely celebrated to inspire the next generation of world changers, regardless of their particular geographies or circumstances.”

Kim has a message to all young people who want to change their communities.

“Engage and be proactive. Reach out to organisations that inspire you and ask if you can help. And if you can’t find an organization that addresses a cause for which you are passionate – consider forming your own!” he says.

To all young people passionate about changing their communities, his advice to you is to not be afraid thinking you are too young or too inexperienced to make a real impact.

“By identifying problems you want to help tackle, reaching out to established organisations who are already involved in your community, and defining your role within the landscape of service, you can create true change wherever you are!”

Happy World Youth Skills Day!

NFTE Helps Youth from Low-income Communities Succeed. Learn more now:

NFTE: Helping Youth from Low-income Communities Succeed

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