The aim of the 2011 Study Visits Seminar, held in Thessaloniki on 28 February-1 March, was to raise awareness and foster debate on how best to integrate young people into the European labour market. The seminar was inspired by the findings of 53 study visits conducted during the past year. These centered on supporting flexible learning pathways; transitioning from education and training to the world of work; and developing entrepreneurship. The event gathered about 90 study visit organisers and participants; representatives of initiatives that had been identified as examples of good practice during these study visits; and representatives of the national agencies, many of whom presented their own projects and initiatives.
On their way to independence and meaningful adulthood, young people need to take several important steps:
- choose the right learning path;
- find and stay in a job;
- keep abreast of the rapidly changing world as it affects their life and career.
Some young people take traditional paths, while others combine schooling with part-time work, or alternate periods of inactivity with work. Clearly, good guidance and career counselling can be very useful in helping young people make the right decisions.
Discussions revealed the need for:
- multiprofessional networks for lifelong guidance;
- public-private partnerships to ensure more apprenticeships for young people;
- cooperation between schools and businesses for entrepreneurship education, including opportunities for teachers and trainers to upgrade their skills.
The latter is a crucial point: support to young people is most effective when provided by highly dedicated professionals who are equipped to address the diversity of challenges and circumstances.
But the seminar also showed that accurate and accessible information is equally important to all those who shape education and training pathways, including employers. Such information should cover options for further learning, labour market needs and requirements, available support, and facts about education and qualification systems in the Member States. The aim of providing this information is to achieve a better match between learners' interests, educational options and career paths, and to contribute to social cohesion.
Young people particularly stand to profit from the new common instruments such as the European qualifications framework (EQF) and relevant national qualifications frameworks (NQFs), the European credit system for vocational education and training (ECVET) and Europass. These have all been developed to make learning transparent and thus improve the mobility of learners and workers throughout the European Union.
The Study Visits Programme will continue to explore the issues discussed during the seminar in future study visits, which focus on encouraging cooperation between the worlds of education, training and work; developing strategies for lifelong learning and mobility; and acquisition of key competences.
The outcomes and examples of good practice presented during the seminar will be included in a publication to be disseminated in the second half of 2011.
Some examples of good practice
presented at the Study Visits seminar
In Denmark, the individual educational plan for all youngsters aged 13-25 aim to raise the number of graduates from youth education programmes to 95% by 2015. A counsellor decides on classroom activities that provide information about the educational system, and on individual and group activities where pupils can reflect on who they are and what interests them. If a pupil wishes to go on to higher education, the counsellor assesses their chances of succeeding and whether they will need extra help. In Copenhagen, the same counsellor follows young people after they leave compulsory education. The result of the programme, which is predicated on creating strong ties between counsellors and pupils, has been an increase in the percentage of young people graduating from youth education programmes.
In 2005 Slovenia launched “Guidance for young people on parallel pathways”, to prevent the social exclusion of 15-27 year-olds who have left school without a qualification but have not joined the labour market. Counselling services are offered for as long as it takes the young person to get ready to join the labour market, re-enter the education or training system or receive other institutionalised help. The “total counselling” method takes into consideration the individual's life situation and personal goals. Counselling is short term, one to five hours, or long term, about 40 hours. About a tenth of the young people who participated in 2005-2006 took part in long-term counselling; out of a total of 262, 132 were successfully integrated.
The Start-Up Café at the University College of Leuven, Belgium, encourages entrepreneurship - using a method originally pioneered in Switzerland - through courses, lectures, informal lunches with entrepreneurs, and company visits. Since 2008, the programme operates a real as well as a virtual café, where students can meet entrepreneurs and set up networks. The Start-up Café has proven to be a very successful way to encourage entrepreneurial thinking and action.