EDUCATION & YOUTH EMPLOYMENT
I had the privilege to participate into the Euro Forum EYES (European Youth Employment Situation) conference last Friday in Brussels. The title of the conference was “A look to the thousand faces of education and employment in Europe, with a special perspective of the young people in risk of social exclusion.”
The European unemployment rate of young adults is about 22 %. In some regions e.g. in Spain and Greece the situation is much worse with over 50 % of young people without work. We have the most trained generation ever with the highest rates of youth unemployment of history!
At the same time the world of employment is changing in a speed never seen before. Gone are the days of lifelong careers in the same company. Nowadays everybody is expected to change jobs 3-8 times during their life span.
There are some areas in which there is a lack of competent young professionals, though. This goes for example for STEM professionals (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths).
Mr Savolainen (Finnish Ministry of Employment and the Economy) shared information about the Finnish youth guarantee scheme, which has proven to improve school-to-work transition process. The Youth Guarantee ensures that all young people under 25 get a good-quality, concrete offer within 4 months of them leaving formal education or becoming unemployed. This offer could be for a job, apprenticeship, traineeship, or continued education.
The representative of the European Commission, Mr Ranguelov (DG Employment) confirmed that the European Commission has made recommendations to promote these type of measures, and that the necessary funds have been available since 2013.
EDUCATION // YOUTH UNEMPLOYMENT – WHAT COULD BE DONE?
The big questions of the day were:
- Is the old-fashioned education system the reason for the unemployment problem?
- Do we educate young people whose skills do not match with the needs of the changing employment market?
- Could education provide solutions to tackle the issue?
It is evident that education systems are partially – but only for a limited part – guilty of the problem. In many European countries, too many pupils leave the education system without any kind of diploma or necessary professional skills. These school systems fail to motivate these youngsters to finalise their studies.
The drop-out phenomena should be tackled, because it leads to exclusion. Several good approaches were shared during the day.
It was proposed to break the walls between general education and professional education. All the pupils, whatever their future orientation might be, would profit from more practical hands-on work experience possibilities, so that they would get a real feel and touch of the occupation.
Sir Ken Robinson highlighted that the school systems are often aiming at the conformity and standardisation. In the real life, each student is different and has different talents, skills and strengths than her/his peers. According to Sir Robinson the school systems should accept and support the diversity of their students and help them to identify their own ability, talent and passion – which would change everything.
According to him this type of education should enable students to understand the world around them and the talents within them so that they could become fulfilled individuals and active, compassionate citizens.
In many school systems, pupils and their parents are obliged to make important choices for their orientation relatively early. In the big conference audience there was only one person whose orientation plans were realised as planned since the age of 14. All the others had had changes in their education and career path while growing up. According to Sir Robinson: “ you create your own life path when you live it!” And it is impossible to know what the future will bring in. Therefore the school systems should be sufficiently flexible and organic – and not too linear!
Sir Robinson highlighted that education systems should enable students
- to become economically responsible and independent (economic)
- to understand and appreciate their own culture and to respect the diversity of others (cultural)
- to become active and compassionate citizens (social aspect)
- to engage with the world within them as well as well as the world around them (personal)
WHAT DO THE COMPANIES LOOK FOR IN ORDER TO HIRE?
Mrs Jane Murphy, staffing programs manager of Google, told the conference that many companies desire to hire good all-arounders – not necessarily specialists. Besides cognitive abilities, they look for problem-solving skills, passion for the industry, leadership qualities (a candidate is able to have an influence to others) and ability to deal with change. It is also important that the candidate fits to the culture of the organisation, e.g. in Google they should be “Googlish”. According to the other panellists the candidates are expected to be able to analyse data, to be creative and they should have teamwork and other soft skills. A bit surprisingly, according to a new study, the basic qualities such as honesty and integrity are highly appreciated by smaller companies.
Even the best education systems couldn’t change the economical climate and solve the structural regional unemployment problems. Collaboration of all the stakeholders is needed.
The most prominent pilot projects such as “youth guarantee scheme” propose a close collaboration between all the key stakeholders: education & training institutions, public authorities, employment services, career guidance providers, youth support services, business, employers, trade unions, etc.
It is difficult – if not impossible – for any education system to predict with 100 % accuracy the future employment skills needs. Therefore the best plan seems to be to provide students with good learning-to-learn skills, with certain “learning mobility flexibility” and they should be encouraged to engage themselves for lifelong learning and self-development.
The education systems should be adapted to take in better consideration the diversity of the students and prepare them for the unsecure and constantly changing future by helping and supporting them to find out their own talents, strengths, internal motivation, and passion.