By introducing youth coaching the Austrian Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs and the Ministry of Education, Arts and Culture have taken an important step towards counteracting early school-leaving.
Early school-leaving is defined as not attaining any qualifications at upper secondary level. It is one of the main topics of European cooperation in the field of education and training (‘ET 2020’). In Austria the share of early school-leavers (8.3% of the cohort) is lower than in other EU Member States. Nevertheless, the risk of early school-leaving is distributed highly unevenly among learners, with the risk being linked to the employment status and qualification level of parents. Pupils from a migrant background also suffer disadvantages. If parents have low qualifications, the risk is seven times higher than if parents have high qualifications. These differences increased during the decade prior to 2011.
Against this background, the youth coaching programme was launched in early 2012. Its main goal is to keep disadvantaged young people in the education and training system and to help to reintegrate young people who are not in employment, education or training (‘NEETs’).
The project addresses three principal target groups:
- pupils in year nine (the last year of compulsory education) who are affected by disabilities (e.g. mental health conditions) or social disadvantages (e.g. poverty) or who are at risk of becoming early school-leavers;
- NEETs up to the age of 19;
- people up to the age of 25 with (certified) special educational needs.
The key objective of youth coaching for individuals is to enhance their professional opportunities (e.g. by supporting applications for apprenticeship or encouraging further schooling). On a macro level, the objective is to reduce the number of drop-outs.
Youth coaching is a voluntary and free offer of guidance by several providers, based on a case management approach. Guidance in this sense means support, assistance and encouragement for young people. Empowerment is at the heart of the programme: enabling young people to take an independent and appropriate decision about their career rather than advising them what to do.
To achieve the objectives, youth coaching stresses cooperation and networking, including close collaboration with all schools referring members of the target groups to the providers. In addition, the providers cooperate with different institutions (such as counselling services or training workshops) that can help young people during or after the coaching period. In other words, youth coaching can be understood as a joint programme of the education, training and employment systems.
Youth coaching has recently been implemented in two federal provinces. By September 2012 all nine federal provinces will be participating. The scheme is being evaluated by the Institute of Advanced Studies in Vienna.