Brussels, 15 September 2010
Youth on the Move – Frequently Asked Questions
(see also IP/10/1124)
What is Youth on the Move?
The Youth on the Move communication sets out a series of actions to help young people gain the qualifications and skills they need to succeed in the jobs market. The measures proposed by the European Commission focus on three areas:
Modernising education and training so that it is more relevant to the needs of young people and employers. Actions will target schools, apprentices and better recognition for skills gained outside formal education. They also aim to make higher education more attractive to increase the proportion of young people with high-level qualifications.
Supporting learning and job mobility. Measures include new EU-level information sources, a Council Recommendation on removing obstacles to learning mobility, a new generation of EU funding programmes for education and training, and an improved European job portal (EURES).
Providing a new EU framework for youth employment, including recommendations to Member States on labour market reform and more help for public employment services to improve support for young people.
Why is the EU launching a specific initiative for young people?
Europe's future prosperity depends on its young people. They represent a fifth of the EU population and their skills and abilities will be decisive in achieving the Europe 2020 goal of smart, sustainable and inclusive growth.
European education and training systems differ from country to country, but they are all facing similar problems. At present, too many young people fail to reach their full potential in education and training – which then makes it harder for them to find a job.
The crisis has led to dramatic increase in youth unemployment. Access to the job market is tough, even for those with good qualifications.
These challenges call for co-ordinated action at EU level, to improve the quality of education and training so that young people are better equipped for the labour market. Youth on the Move will encourage countries to learn from each other about which policies work and which do not.
Some Youth on the Move actions will start very soon. Others involve a longer-term perspective. For example, preparation is now starting for the new generation of post-2013 EU programmes in support of education, training and employment.
How does Youth on the Move differ from what the EU has done up until now?
Youth on the Move brings together new and existing measures at EU level and in the Member States to create a more effective package of support for young people. Although existing EU programmes in education and training overwhelmingly target young people (95% of funding under the Lifelong Learning Programme goes to young people, teachers and trainers), this is the first single EU-level strategy embracing both education and employment.
What can the EU do to stop young people dropping out of school early?
Early school leaving is a complex issue: young people have very different reasons for dropping out of education and training, so there is no straight-forward solution. In general, prevention strategies should target those who are most at risk, including migrants, those from disadvantaged socio-economic backgrounds and other vulnerable social groups. Boys are more likely than girls to leave education early. There should also be more 'second chances' to allow those who do drop out to get back into education.
Although EU Member States have primary responsibility for policy choices and funding decisions in education and training, the EU plays an important supporting role. The EU has, for instance, raised awareness of the impact of early school leaving on the European economy and proposed common targets to address the problem. It helps Member States to identify appropriate responses, drawing on the experience of their partners. In 2011, the European Commission will propose a Council Recommendation for a detailed pan-European strategy to tackle early school leaving.
How can Youth on the Move contribute to meeting the EU target for 40% of young people to complete higher education or equivalent?
Raising the number of young people in higher education or equivalent and ensuring more students graduate calls for action at different levels. One part of the answer is to improve the quality and relevance of primary and secondary education and to ensure that pupils receive the right guidance on higher education options.
Higher education institutions need to modernise to ensure that their study programmes more closely match the needs of young people and the labour market. Higher education needs to be made more attractive for groups that are currently under-represented. This means not only encouraging more pupils to go into higher education, but also creating more flexible ways to study, which will make it more accessible for those already in work.
Youth on the Move will encourage higher education institutions to improve their quality through greater openness and co-operation with their counterparts elsewhere in the world. It will also provide more transparent information on the performance of individual institutions through a new multi-dimensional international university ranking system. The new Modernisation Agenda for Higher Education, which is part of Youth on the Move and will be presented by the Commission next year, will highlight detailed actions on all these points.
What is vocational education and training (VET) and why is it important?
Vocational education and training enables people to acquire the practical knowledge and skills they need to succeed in getting a job. It takes a variety of forms in different countries and is offered at different levels of education, from secondary to higher education and training.
Vocational education and training is chosen by an average of around 50% of all students in upper secondary education. The sector needs to be modernised to increase its attractiveness and quality. Current projections suggest that around 50% of jobs in the EU in 2020 will depend on medium-level qualifications of the type provided by vocational education and training.
What does the EU mean by 'mobility'?
In this context, 'mobility' means moving to another country to study, train or work. Youth on the Move makes a distinction between:
Learning mobility – studying or training abroad to gain new skills and experience;
Employment mobility – moving abroad for work, on a short or longer-term basis.
The European Commission has a long history of providing financial support for learning mobility through programmes such as Erasmus, Erasmus Mundus and Marie Curie in higher education, Leonardo da Vinci in vocational education and Comenius in school education. Youth on the Move aims to raise wider awareness of the grants available through these programmes.
The freedom to work in another Member State is a right guaranteed for all EU citizens. Youth on the Move will introduce new measures to support job mobility in the EU. The Commission will, through "Your first EURES Job", provide assistance on the ground, including financial support, to help young people to find job opportunities abroad. Today there are still shortages in some countries or sectors and in other regions unemployment is very high. The Commission will encourage SMEs, the largest group of employers in the EU, to offer young people work.
Why does the EU think spending time studying, training or getting work experience abroad is useful for young people?
In a European Single Market, the availability of highly qualified individuals with experience of living in different Member States is vital for smart and sustainable growth. Experience gained in another country allows people to improve their language skills and develop other capacities, such as dealing with other cultures. These abilities are valuable for their own personal development and future employability.
A job in another European country can help young workers gain a foothold in the labour market by finding a job more easily, while improving their skills, employability and future employment horizons. At a more general level, job mobility also helps make labour markets in Europe more adaptable, creating more job opportunities and better matching people with jobs.
Does youth mobility enhance your job prospects?
Yes it does, according to independent studies. More than 40% of the employers attach importance to the experience gained from study and work abroad and consider that internationally experienced graduates are likely to take up jobs with high professional responsibilities. This is the key finding of a 2006 study on the professional value of the Erasmus scheme by the International Centre for Higher Education Research and the University of Kassel, Germany. A 2007 study on the impact of Leonardo da Vinci programme for vocational education by Wirtschafts- und Sozialforschung (Kerpen, Germany) found that 58% of unemployed people obtained a job after their training abroad and 34% got jobs with greater responsibility.
Is Youth on the Move in contradiction to the EU's commitment to lifelong learning?
In 2009, Member States agreed on a 10-year strategic framework for co-operation in education and training ("ET 2020"), with an emphasis on the importance of lifelong learning. Youth on the Move is one part of the EU's broader strategy for lifelong learning. Some of the actions envisaged by Youth on the Move, such as improved recognition for skills gained outside formal education, will benefit people of all ages.
Why is the Commission focusing on youth unemployment, given that unemployment has increased among the whole workforce?
Young people under 25 are one of the groups in the workforce that has been most affected by the crisis. At present 5.2 million young people in the EU-27 are unemployed - that is one in five of all young people in the labour market. The unemployment rate of young people has increased from 14.7% in March 2008 to 20.2% in July 2010. Given the reduced number of job openings in many Member States and the annual inflow of new young entrants to the labour market, it is urgent to take action for young people.
How will the EU address youth employment in practice?
Putting policies and measures in place to tackle youth unemployment is first and foremost a national responsibility, but all Member States face common challenges. To improve the situation of young people, we need policies that cover the steps young people have to make in the transition from education to work, and that provide support to those who have difficulties in making these steps. Youth on the Move will focus policies in a strategic manner to help young people to get the first job and then to progress in their career. The Commission will work closely together with Member States to identify policy actions and measures that work to inspire the shaping of policies. There will also be new money available for two actions directly accessible to young people:
We will start next year a pilot action "Your first EURES job" to help young people seize the opportunities in the wider EU labour market, and to help companies finding qualified workers. This initiative has strong support from the European Parliament and it has made an extra budget available in 2011 to launch this action.
The new "European Progress Microfinance facility" will make it easier for young entrepreneurs to access credit. This is important since obtaining a loan has become more difficult after the financial crisis, especially for the younger generation.
What can EURES do for young people today?
Helping to match people with jobs is an essential part of the role played by EURES – the European employment service, which brings together job services across the EU. It provides information, advice and help in finding a job in 27 EU countries, plus Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Switzerland. EURES also has a network of more than 850 specialised advisers who can offer personalised help and advice on the practical, legal and administrative aspects of moving between countries.
The EURES portal (www.eures.europa.eu) offers a database with direct access to around half a million job vacancies and allows you to register your CV online.
The proof of the success of EURES lies in the statistics: more and more employers and employees are using the service. In the past three years, the number of vacancies on the EURES portal has grown by 18%, the number of employee CVs by 12%, and - most importantly - the number of employers by 129%. Every month 700,000 people visit the EURES portal, making it one of the busiest EU internet sites.
What does Youth on the Move do against the precarious employment of young people?
Young people often face job insecurity and can become trapped in a series of temporary contracts. At present 40% of employees in the EU under 25 years old are on temporary contracts. Such contracts are not bad in themselves: they allow firms to test workers before offering an open-ended contract, and they also allow young people to try out one or more jobs over their first years in the labour market. But too many young people get stuck in a series of temporary jobs, especially in countries where permanent jobs are strongly protected by employment legislation. This results in a two-tier labour market where young workers have little chance of moving to more stable, open-ended contracts. The Commission therefore recommends that Member States with such employment rules introduce an open-ended "single" contract with a gradual increase in employee protection rights, to make it more attractive for employers to hire young people.
Why does the Commission want to define the quality of traineeships?
Traineeships are very useful for young people to get a first foothold in the labour market, and employers value candidates who have gained work experience in a traineeship. But some employers may use traineeships to replace regular jobs or probation periods. Legally non-binding quality guidance at European level would help young people, employers and training institutions define high quality traineeships.
Many young people also do a traineeship in another Member State. As national legislation and practice on traineeships vary in the 27 EU Member States, the Commission will also make information available on the different regulations so as to increase transparency for young people considering a traineeship abroad.
To find out more:
Youth on the Move website: http://europa.eu/youthonthemove
Youth on the Move Communication (COM(2010)477 final), 15 September 2010, setting out the overall Youth on the Move strategy:
Youth on the Move: Citizens' summary: http://ec.europa.eu/education/yom/cs_en.pdf