2022 places the younger generation in the centre of the EU’s policy priorities. The true challenges and opportunities for young people in times of uncertainty was the focus of the Youth first! seminar that was organised in Brussels on 8 September by five EU Agencies, Cedefop, the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA), Eurofound, the European Training Foundation (ETF) and the European Labour Authority (ELA).
The event aimed to share with the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs (EMPL) of the European Parliament (EP) the Agencies' insights into the multiplicity and complexity of all related policy issues.
The seminar gathered 90 physical attendees at the EP in Brussels as well as 160 who followed the presentations online. They included Members of the EP and other EP staff, European Commission (EC) officials, social partner representatives (employee and employer organisations) and representatives of NGOs.
One of the key themes of the seminar was the synergies that EU Agencies develop and the ways in which they complement each other. This allows them to work together effectively for the future of youth in Europe, among others, by collecting data, sharing methodological expertise, publishing joint research and helping tackle the Ukraine crisis.
During the discussion, the EU Agencies shared their expertise on the current quality of employment and working conditions of young people across the region. As the European economy and labour market are undergoing a substantial transformation, with established occupations disappearing, new ones emerging, job/task profiles within jobs changing and employment relations adapting, the role of vocational education and training (VET) becomes more crucial, Cedefop Executive Director Jürgen Siebel noted, adding:
'VET is particularly suited for young people in the context of our green and digital future. It helps people build the resilience and skills needed, including entrepreneurial ones, to cope with, and actively shape, those transitions. VET and VET learners enable change!'
Bringing promising future-oriented jobs within reach of young people requires complementing skills intelligence – forecasting today which skills might be needed in the future.
'Our work on skills intelligence is becoming more user-centred and personalised and we do more to communicate it in a way that makes sense to young people. In this way, they can translate their personal aspirations into education, training and career choices that match labour market needs and prepare the young, and thereby society, for future transitions,' Mr Siebel said.
On the importance of VET for young people's labour market prospects, Cedefop Deputy Director Mara Brugia pointed out that VET is the form of education and training closest to the labour market and, thanks to the close cooperation with labour market actors, it is in the best position to respond to changing and new skills needs and help address skills gaps and shortages.
'VET offers a wide range of programmes, gives young people learning opportunities in the workplace and also provides them with the transversal skills they need to be successful in today’s jobs and to build their career,' she concluded.
The seminar hosted several debates on issues concerning education, VET, skills, employment, mental health and social policies for young Europeans. The main topics of the seminar covered:
- The impact of the pandemic
- Safe and healthy working conditions for young people and youth policies
- Access to education and training
- Opportunities for cross-border mobility
- The reality of the green transition
- The future of social protection