Foreword from Bernard Abrignani

BernardThe “Abdullah Gül University”, the “Turkish National Agency for the Erasmus+ Programme” and the “SALTO EuroMed and Good Practices Resource Centre” designed, planned and co-organized this International Symposium on Youth Employment Challenges (ISYEC) in order to contest a reality that is very hard to admit: Youth Unemployment; and contribute to its downturn.

The situation is extremely alarming. Youth unemployment rates have increased by more than 50 % since Spring 2008, with today almost one in four young people in the labour market without a job.
In 2012, the European population reached 503 679 730 inhabitants; to date, young Europeans represent 20% of the population and, following the demographical trend, should represent 15% in 2050.
We are faced with a paradox: how can an ageing European Union population have over 18.5 Million unemployed workers, which, according to Eurostat – the European Commission’s Centre for Statistical Studies – represents an average unemployment rate of almost 12%, a never before seen level (the average rate of the OECD being 15.6%) and yet it is the young people who are the first victims of the European crisis?
In March 2012, almost 5 517 000 young Europeans (students excluded) were unemployed and 22.7% were looking for work. This is evocative of a “lost” generation within the EU.

Spain and Greece were particularly affected by the unemployment problem as a whole – they suffer from a catastrophic rate of 52.1% – and by youth unemployment in particular. Germany has 7.9% of unemployed youth, 22.6% in the Eurozone.


The reasons behind it all:

The economic crisis, of course, but also the sort of work contracts and of training opportunities that young people are faced with, explain the magnitude of youth unemployment in Europe; and yet, the ageing population should see its workforce decrease by 6.5 million people by 2030, so logically, young people should have more job opportunities! Each year, Europe will have to hire 200 000 new engineers and technicians.

What can we do?

First of all it is crucial to see young people not only as “victims” but also as powerful agents of change for whom the ideas of democracy, civil society, human rights, freedom of opinion and greater mobility present new chances and challenges. Now, more than ever before, they also have the option of choosing the context in which they want to work and live.
We thought it listless, depoliticized, disillusioned, etc. Yet youth has brutally appeared on the forefront of the political arena. And it might only be the beginning, as it has the potential to become a force to be reckoned with, so frustrated are its democratic, but also economic and social, aspirations.
In 2011 took place what was to be known as the “Arab Spring”, followed all around the World by the Indignants Movement!
Young people played a decisive role:
“We are no objects in the hands of politicians and bankers who do not represent us” they said!
Nevertheless, if current trends continue, without degradation to ensure a balance in the labour market, 22.5 Million jobs should be created by 2020; with an annual growth of more than 8% on average for 15 years.


During the EU Youth Conference in 2010 in Leuven, Belgium it was already assessed that the institutions should provide INFORMATION, GUIDANCE AND SUPPORT FOR YOUNG PEOPLE:
“Formal education institutions should promote cooperation with the private sector and the employment agencies to ensure that its provision is reflecting current labour market trends.
Youth workers and career advisers should have a more important guidance role in informing and supporting young people on labour market issues through the use of non-formal education and with the help of new exciting tools, information and support structures.

EU and Member States should enable formal education curricula to promote and support creative thinking and entrepreneurial skills in young people.
EU and Member States should better target financial resources to ease the access of young people to the labour market, especially for long-term unemployed, first-time job seekers and disadvantaged young people.”
In order to facilitate the transition from education to the labour market it is paramount that States and educational institutions ensure that career-oriented training and guidance are integrated at all levels of education in preparation for career search, both for employment and entrepreneurship for all young people.
We as educational institutions wanted to offer an opportunity during these days to see, to test, to analyse different good practices offering new opportunities to fight fatality and to breathe new fresh air and hope into this thematic for the benefit of young people!

Education for ALL is to ensure that all young people have the opportunity to acquire skills.
Education is not only about making sure all children can attend school. It is about setting young people up for Life, by giving them opportunities to find decent work, earn a living, contribute to their communities and societies, and fulfil their potential. At the wider Level, it is about helping countries nurture the workforce they need to grow in the global economy.
The cross-sectorial approach bridging between formal, non-formal and private sectors, is one of the possibilities. Our idea is to go deeper into such issues, trying to k now more about success stories and good practices, to share them and to provide hope to all actors, but especially to young people.

Bernard Abrignani, Deputy Director of the French Erasmus+ National Agency and Coordinator of the SALTO-YOUTH EuroMed & Good Practices Resource Centre.