With the link between acquiring skills and finding a job firmly in its priorities, the Italian EU Presidency of the second semester of 2014 makes a clear statement in its programme.

It reads: ‘Tomorrow’s jobs require higher quality, and more labour-market-relevant, skills as well as more flexibility. The Presidency will strive to advance the Europe 2020 strategy’s educational agenda, with a focus on youth empowerment and employability. The Presidency will also pay special attention to the issue of integrating education and training systems with the labour market by enhancing work-based learning pathways (such as apprenticeships, traineeships, etc.).’

The programme also refers to the ongoing European initiatives to fight youth unemployment: ‘As far as youth employment initiative and its impact on active labour market policies are concerned, youth guarantee programmes are being implemented and will start delivering results in 2014.’
Following concerns that the implementation of youth guarantee schemes is falling behind, the European Commission announced on 11 July that it adopted the Italian operational programme. Italy will receive EUR 1.1 million from the European budget to help young people find a job. It will mobilise in total EUR 1.5 million from various sources.

Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion László Andor commented: ‘Italy's programme implementing the Youth Employment Initiative is very ambitious: it should reach over half a million young Italians currently out of employment, education or training.’

Italy is the second country to have its operational programme adopted by the European Commission, following France. Other Member States, including Bulgaria, Croatia, Ireland, Poland and Sweden are also in the process of implementing projects to be financed by the youth employment initiative.

The Italian Presidency has also vowed to ‘focus its efforts on mobility, social dialogue, job creation, the structural reform of labour markets and investment in human capital.’

Particular attention will be given to public employment services, ‘whose functioning is key to ensuring effective matching between labour demand and supply’.

The Italians want a political discussion on the future role of education and training in the national and EU growth agendas. Within this framework, their focus is on vocational education and training, the inter-relationship between education and employment and entrepreneurship education.