In an ideal life, university graduates go on to land the job of their dreams. But this isn’t the reality.

The reality is, according to official data, there are over 10,000 registered unemployed jobseekers in Brunei. And common sense tells us that this number may potentially rise each time a new batch of graduates is released into the market.

Quick to action, the government has rolled out various incentives starting at the secondary level, to ensure that entrepreneurship becomes a viable option for the youth of Brunei. This includes the Brunei Entrepreneurship Education Scheme –  a joint venture between Ministry of Education, Universiti Brunei Darussalam (UBD) and Brunei Shell Petroleum.

There are over 10,000 registered unemployed jobseekers in Brunei. And common sense tells us that this number may potentially rise each time a new batch of graduates is released into the market.”

On Tuesday, His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah, the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam, in his titah at the opening ceremony of the 14th China-Asean Expo (CAEXPO) in Nanning, China, highlighted the importance of MSMEs (micro, small and medium enterprises) in providing employment opportunities especially in the Asean region.

In fact, His Majesty has repeatedly expressed his hopes for Bruneian youth to dabble in entrepreneurship. In a 2015 titah, the monarch said: “Alhamdulillah, I was informed that with the amendments, the Business Licence (can now be available) in one day. In addition to that, the application and approval for company registration can also be done online. I hope this opportunity will be fully utilised by our young generation.”

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Co-founder of SneakSmith, Mohd Auji Azizi, writing up a receipt for his customer. Photo: Hadthiah Hazair

And the youth are taking heed, starting their own business early to save them from drowning in the saturated job market environment.

“Unemployment is an issue at the moment… It forces people to find odd jobs (such as freelancing) or start their own business,” fresh UBD graduate and co-founder of SneakSmith, Mohd Auji Azizi Mohd Noor said.

The 24-year-old started his shoe cleaning business on Instagram in 2014 when he was still in his third year studying geography and development.

“My partner and I, we needed the extra money… And I am happy to be doing this today now that I have just graduated,” Mohd Auji Azizi said.

He added that although he will still try looking for a job, he doesn’t have to worry about having no income, thanks to his decision to start SneakSmith when he was still studying.

With hard work and dedication, SneakSmith has grown from a home-based business to a small store front at the Centrepoint, Gadong.

“We opened up here during my final year  (at UBD) last year and we are looking to expand (into other areas),” the enterprising youth said.

Also taking matters into her own hands, 22-year-old Najiyah Rahim, said that she wants to ensure she has an income now as a student and when she graduates.

“I want to be independent and I want to earn an income… A few of my friends who have graduated a year ago are still looking for work,” the Universiti Islam Sultan Sharif Ali (UNISSA) student said.

This gave her the courage to start an Instagram business which offers event styling and decorating.

“I’ve always been a collector of home decoration and I enjoy decorating. I was eager to challenge myself, so I went ahead and started The Yard.”

UNISSA student, Najiyah Rahim, started an online business offering event styling. Photo: Courtesy of The Yard

As a full time Islamic Finance student, Najiyah is only able to allocate her weekends to the business, and it is booming.

“On average we are able to take in three set-ups a week. Initially, I was afraid that people won’t be able to accept (my business concept),” she said. However, since establishing The Yard in October 2016, Najiyah now has over 2,000 followers on her Instagram.

Youths like Najiyah and Mohd Auji Azizi are not without help either, with the Darussalam Enterprise (DARe) at the forefront of building the next generation of young entrepreuners by facilitating programmes such as bootcamp for startups as well as holding regular dialogue sessions for entrepreneurs.

Similarly, the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports through its Youth Department also has programmes tailored to help entrepreneurs.

“Of course, when you’re unemployed, then (starting your own business) is an alternative way to sustain a living,” Pg Kamal Ghadafi Pg Hj Suhaimi, the head of unit of the ministry’s Youth Entrepreneurship Programme said.

He noted that sometimes entrepreneurs lack certain skills and this is why it’s important for them to seek out training schemes.

“It helps them understand… With fresh graduates or university students who want to start their own business, this is helpful because they may be studying a specialised field but have no experience or necessary business skills.”