Tackling youth unemployment and the skills gap

Stefan Crets / Nov 2017

Marianne Thyssen, European Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs, Skills and Labour Mobility. Photo: European Union


EU and business leaders are very keen to address the high levels of youth unemployment and the emerging skills gap across Europe by offering young people opportunities to play an active role in the European economy.

On 23 November 2017, the 1st European Business-Education Summit will look at the accomplishments of the European Pact for Youth initiative and explore new ways to boost youth employment over the next years.

This high-level event will be organised in Brussels by the European Commission and CSR Europe, the European business network for Corporate Social Responsibility. It will showcase how the organisations that have participated in this campaign made a positive impact on youth employment and youth inclusion.

Randstad, the HR service provider, is an example of a company that has recognised the need for Business-Education partnerships. It created the programme Youth@Work that provided students training and coaching to help improve their presentation skills, such as writing a professional CV, using better interview techniques, tips on how to dress and creating a more effective LinkedIn profile, including an appropriate picture.

A futuristic mobile lab toured in different European cities with the aim of getting high school and university graduates into work. The programme gave the opportunity to young people to meet potential employers. Job speed-dates were also organised and candidates could pitch themselves to employers, giving them the opportunity of being invited for a full interview later. About 10.000 young people found a job through this initiative.

Enel Group, the Italian multinational power company and distributor of electricity and gas, developed a “Work-related learning” apprenticeship Programme in 2014 to improve the employability of young people and facilitate their entry into the labour market. Between2014 and 2016, the company employed a total of 276 students through the Programme ,integrating 140 apprentices from the fourth and fifth years of secondary school in 2016 alone. Another 30 students, with some having already started in September 2017,are beginning their apprenticeships over the next two years.

Business in the Community Ireland (BITCI), a network for responsible and sustainable business, has established one to one school-business partnerships in the country. In 2015, 22% of all post primary schools in Ireland had a business partner involving an average of 3.800 students each year. Students most at risk are supported through its Mentoring and Skills@Work programmes.

The goal is to provide business partners to all targeted post primary schools by 2018. BITCI also provides high level supports for principals and teachers via its Management Excellence for Principals and Teachers’ programmes and STEM ‘Seeing is Believing’ events for STEM teachers to visit industry. It also provides business executive insights on leadership, performance management, marketing and other areas with proven strong impacts.  BITCI aims to have engaged 85% of school principals by 2018. A total of 184 businesses are involved across the country.

Nowadays, young people find it more and more difficult to get a decent and stable job, despite being one of the best educated generations ever. Youth is still suffering the effects of the economic crisis.

The challenges are many and vary from region to region and from person to person. Unemployment and growing inequality create a feeling of indignation and a severe sense of injustice.

In addition to the consequences of the crisis, business has changed dramatically over the past decade. As a result, labour skills and requirements have also changed.

There are jobs today that didn’t exist ten years ago such as social media manager, data scientist, Uber driver or app developer. In the next five years, there will be new roles with new requirements that don’t exist today.

Improving the value of today’s education system and helping the preparation of students for life after studies, means also adopting a more practical and applied approach and a closer co-operation between business and education.

Launched in 2015, the European Pact for Youth started as a mutual engagement of business, education, youth and EU institutions to create a culture of business-education partnerships and support youth employability and inclusion. For the last two-years, the Pact has worked to improve opportunities for young people across Europe. Companies and stakeholders in various European countries and regions have agreed on National Actions Plans.

These plans set local priorities for youth’s skills and to facilitate their transition towards real jobs. During the two years, the partners created over 23.000 business-education partnerships and provided around 160.000 new opportunities for young people.

Building upon the Pact, business and civil society leaders have developed three policy proposals to make business-education partnerships the new norm. In this sense, a joint appeal will be presented on the occasion of the First European Business-Education Summit to European leaders to accelerate the pace of reforms to make business-education partnerships the new norm.

For a number of generations, education has successfully supported economic development, growth and social change. Today, our economies face a large amplitude of change and disruption. These challenges bring significant opportunities for EU institutions and the Member States to find new ways to deliver more value to students and human resources.

By recognising how important corporate social responsibility is to European integration and capitalising on business-education collaborations, we can shape a new way of working and learning, fight youth unemployment and boost growth.


Stefan Crets

Stefan Crets

November 2017

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