The unemployment rate among those aged between 16 and 24 years in the EU27 is twice as high as the overall rate. To address this problem, and discuss how the EU agencies can contribute to its solution, four agencies – Cedefop, EU-OSHA, ETF and Eurofound – who deal with related labour market issues held a common seminar in Brussels last month. The event, hosted by the Employment and Social Affairs Committee of the European Parliament, gathered policy-makers and experts from European social partners, EU institutions and representatives of civil society to discuss findings and formulate options on which policies could put the Europe’s next generation to work.
Speaking on behalf of Cedefop, Acting Director Christian Lettmayr pointed out that the lower the skills level of young people the more likely they are to be affected by unemployment. Moreover, those who have gained vocational qualifications are more likely than general education graduates to have a job.
These observations reflect the labour market’s increasing tendency to require more skills at all occupational levels, as shown in Cedefop’s skills forecasts. Correctly documenting their skills can help young people get a foothold on the job market. In this, Europass tools such as the European CV can prove very useful.
Pascaline Descy presenting Cedefop's work
at the Youth Employment joint seminar
Pascaline Descy, Cedefop’s Head of Research and Policy Analysis, said that work-based learning must be developed in all learning pathways, not just vocational education. Outlining the ways in which guidance service are changing to better help young people join the labour force, she said such services can not only match individuals to jobs but also help people develop career management skills and an entrepreneurial attitude.
The panel debate focused on the need to invest in young people, to create jobs and opportunities, and not succumb to the notion of a lost generation. As the youngest MEP, Emilie Turunen (DK-Greens) pointed out, youth employment does not just affect a particular age cohort, but is a crucial issue for the future of Europe.
Despite wide recognition of the role of education and training in unlocking the potential of young workers, approaches to education differ widely across the EU. ‘Some countries, the “clever” ones, have not cut education budgets” said Pierre Mairesse, Director for Lifelong learning and EU 2020 Strategy in the European Commission.
But as Luca Scarpiello of the European Youth Forum pointed out, it’s not just the low-skilled who are finding it hard to join the labour market. ‘We need more quality in internships to help young people acquire working experience,’ he said.
In his keynote address, László Andor, European Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion, spoke about the challenge that 4 million unemployed young people represent. ‘Our "Youth on Move" initiative’, he said’ provides an agenda for action to develop jobs for young people.’
The seminar provided the opportunity an open exchange of research findings and practical examples from several Member States. There was general agreement that only a holistic approach will work: education and training pathways must convince young people that they offer better prospects on the job market; and for this to happen, innovation and entrepreneurship - the main engines of job creation - must be allowed to thrive.
‘The EU Agencies have today demonstrated the complementarity and importance of their work on youth employment’, said Pervenche Berès, MEP and Chair of the Employment and Social Affairs Committee.