Tackling unacceptably high rates of youth unemployment is a top priority for EU regions and cities. In the opinion on the Youth Employment Package, drafted by the President of the Tuscany Region, Enrico Rossi (IT/PES) and adopted unanimously at the May plenary, the Committee of the Regions endorses the European Commission's efforts to harmonise and improve provisions for traineeships, apprenticeships and work placements. The CoR also warned Member States against providing insufficient funding for the Youth Employment Initiative which was launched at the European Council on 7-8 February, earmarking €6bn from the EU budget. Regions and cities are calling for the initiative to be strengthened and brought forward, starting already in 2013.
"The key question we have to answer to is how to get young Europeans into the job world", Rossi said before stressing that, "The solution includes providing adequate traineeship and apprenticeship opportunities, addressing in particular young people who are not in education, employment or training, as suggested by EU Commissioner Andor". Having a clear vision of local needs and challenges, regions and cities have a key role to play in implementing the new initiative starting with the youth guarantee schemes which promise young people good quality employment, continued education, an apprenticeship or a work contract within four months of finishing school. According to Rossi, "This guarantee should be seen as a right for all young EU citizens". There are encouraging signs as pilot projects are already being realised by several regions, Rossi said, "In Tuscany the impact of the guarantee has been highly effective with 40% of young workers being offered a job straight after their traineeship". The CoR insists that youth guarantees should be extended to cover young people up to the age of 30 (not just up to 25), including those with university degrees. However, the CoR acknowledges that adopting the scheme will be very expensive and not feasible in several Member States unless they can count on adequate EU funding.
Beside underlining the key role of cohesion policy for the period 2014-2020, Rossi argues that closer synergies between all EU initiatives is needed, especially between the Agenda for New skills and Jobs, Youth on the Move, Innovation Union, and the European Digital Agenda. The CoR states that the best results in terms of youth employment are seen in countries where young people have the chance to take part in high-quality traineeships, and where well-established apprenticeship schemes form an integral part of the training and work placement system. It calls on all tiers of government to improve career services and employment agencies. Furthermore, it calls on the Commission to propose minimum quality standards for apprenticeships at a European level to ensure that the skills acquired can be recognised throughout Europe. Since in many Member States traineeships are misused and are sometimes abused as a source of cheap or even free labour, the CoR reiterates the need to put in place controls to protect young people and the quality of the training programmes.
With regards to mobility, the CoR calls for modernising the EURES network and requests that regions are given the possibility to earmark resources, either through the European Social Fund or through national and/or regional funds, to promote mobility schemes for all young Europeans under equal conditions, regardless of where they live. These schemes would be launched in addition to existing EU education programmes.
Entrepreneurship plays a crucial role within the strategy proposed by regions and cities to boost youth employment. In this perspective, the CoR underlines that the financial instruments under the new Multiannual Financial Framework can contribute towards facilitating access to credit for young entrepreneurs and innovative start-ups.