What is the initiative "Investing in Europe's Youth" about?
Today the Commission has presented several key actions to support young people in Europe. This includes the launch of the European Solidarity Corps, which was announced by President Juncker in his State of the Union speech on 14 September 2016. At the Bratislava Summit on 16 September 2016 the Heads of State or Government of 27 EU Member States committed to taking decisions by the end of the year on EU support for Member States in "fighting youth unemployment and on enhanced EU programmes dedicated to youth". Today's proposals are the first deliverable from the list of concrete measures set out in President Juncker's State of the Union speech and the Bratislava Roadmap.
The initiative "Investing in Europe's Youth" covers four key areas of critical importance for young people:
- solidarity and participation;
- education and training.
What is the Commission proposing?
1. Tackling youth unemployment
The recent Commission report on the implementation of the Youth Guarantee and the Youth Employment Initiative shows that the Youth Guarantee has become a reality across the EU and is yielding results. Around 9 million young people have taken up an offer under the Youth Guarantee scheme since its implementation. In addition, since 2013, there are 1.6 million fewer young unemployed and 900,000 fewer young people not in employment, education or training. Although youth unemployment is steadily dropping, it still remains too high. It is therefore necessary to draw lessons from the experience gained and build on the achievements so far in pursuing the full roll-out of the national Youth Guarantee schemes, as announced by President Juncker in his State of the Union address of 14 September 2016.
The Commission aims at further supporting the implementation of the Youth Guarantee, also through the continuation of the Youth Employment Initiative. In particular, in September, the Commission proposed to increase funding by a total of €2 billion (€1 billion by increasing the budget line for the Youth Employment Initiative, matched by another billion from the European Social Fund). This would make it possible to support around 1 million more young people until 2020 in the Member States most affected by youth unemployment.
2. Mobility for young people
To encourage mobility for young people, the Commission wants to build on one of Europe's most successful programmes: Erasmus+. This programme is emblematic for the opportunities the EU offers to young people to learn or study abroad.
Learning and studying in another country has proven to be of great added value for young people to develop their skills, improve their career chances and enhance European citizenship. Learning abroad is a unique experience that helps those who do it to assume responsibility while developing cross-cultural communication experience and specialist skills. Experience gained abroad is a major advantage for young people when applying for a job. Employers appreciate additional assets such as the capacity to show initiative, adaptability in different cultural environments and linguistic skills.
When it comes to learning mobility, apprentices are still under-represented. In spite of the proven positive impact, only a small fraction of apprentices spend time learning in another Member State and even then, it is usually for a very short amount of time (one month on average). In 2017, the Commission will launch "ErasmusPro", a new dedicated activity within the Erasmus+ programme to support long-duration (6-12 months) placements of apprentices abroad. In addition to the current 650.000 apprentices that will benefit from mobility under Erasmus+, these measures will open up the possibility for 50,000 additional young people to spend at least 6 months of their learning experience in another Member State in the period 2017-2020.
Vocational education and training systems, in particular apprenticeships, are a tried-and-tested way to equip young people with relevant skills and facilitate their transition from school to the labour market; but it is essential that sufficient apprenticeship places are available and that they are of a good quality. Therefore the Commission is also proposing a Quality Framework for Apprenticeships which will set out key principles for the design and delivery of apprenticeships at all levels.
3. Solidarity and participation
Today, the Commission is launching the European Solidarity Corps, providing new opportunities for young Europeans to engage in solidarity activities across Europe.
Solidarity is a shared value which is strongly felt throughout European societies. Young Europeans need more and easily accessible opportunities to express their solidarity, whilst gaining certified experience and skills that can open new opportunities.
Young people between the ages of 18 and 30 will be able to volunteer or do an internship, apprenticeship, or work where it is needed most and to respond to challenging situations.
The European Solidarity Corps will serve the needs of vulnerable communities, of national and local structures via a wide range of actions such as providing food, cleaning forests and beaches, or helping with the integration of refugees. In addition, in 2017 the Commission will prepare the next European Youth Strategy for the post-2018 period with a view to boosting civic participation of young people.
4. Better opportunities for education and training
High quality education is one of the best investments a society can make. The quality and accessibility of education are of critical importance in order to sustain Europe's social cohesion, growth, and competitiveness as well as enable a fair, open, vibrant and democratic society. Evidence shows, however, that a high share of young people do not acquire the necessary knowledge, skills or competences they need for the labour market, be it basic skills (such as reading or mathematics) or key competencies (such as digital skills or an entrepreneurial mindset). Education systems need to become better at equipping young people from all backgrounds with the knowledge and skills they need in life. In addition, too many young people are leaving education prematurely without a formal qualification, which makes the transition to the labour market harder for them (more than 40% of early school-leavers are unemployed).
While education and training are competences of the Member States, EU-level policies, like Europe 2020 and the European Semester of economic policy coordination, can be used to steer and complement Member States' actions, driving forward policy reforms to improve performance by increasing the efficiency and quality of education outcomes.
The Commission intends to fully use the instruments of both the Europe 2020 framework and the European Semester, reflecting the key importance of education and training; by offering enhanced policy support and strengthened evidence-base, analysis and bench-learning of what works in education and training; by identifying and disseminating good practice, and by presenting improving opportunities in the field of vocational education and training.
The New Skills Agenda for Europe already announced specific measures to develop and use better the skills of Europeans, with a particular focus on adult learning, vocational education and training, and higher education. With the "Investing in Europe's Youth" initiative, the Commission is placing a particular emphasis on school and higher education and the quick roll-out of the youth-related actions of the New Skills Agenda for Europe.
To help equip Europeans better with the digital skills they need to build their career, the Commission launched on 1 December 2016 the Digital Skills and Jobs Coalition, together with Member States, companies, social partners, NGOs and education providers. Members of the Coalition have committed to tackling the skills gaps at all levels, from high-level ICT specialist skills to the skills needed by all European citizens to live, work and participate in a digital economy and society.
What is new about today's proposal?
The centrepiece of today's initiative is the European Solidarity Corps. It will offer young people the possibility to put solidarity into practice.
With this initiative, the Commission is also pushing ahead with the Europe-wide roll-out of all key EU youth policies, notably the Youth Guarantee, the New Skills Agenda for Europe and the European Youth Strategy, all of which cover a wide range of actions in support of young people, from education and training to employment and youth policy. The goal is to improve opportunities for young people by substantially increasing the quality of offers and their expected outcomes.
How will young people benefit from this initiative?
Today's initiative combines actions to address immediate needs, such as employment, as well as structural challenges, such as the quality of education and training.
The Youth Guarantee helps young people to get a foothold in the labour market or invest in their education so that they acquire the skills and qualifications expected on the labour market. It is a commitment to ensure that all young people (under the age of 25) receive a good-quality offer of employment, continued education, an apprenticeship or a traineeship within four months of becoming unemployed or leaving formal education. The Youth Guarantee is implemented through national Youth Guarantee schemes. Since January 2014, 14 million young people have already entered one of these schemes and 9 million have taken up an offer. Its full roll-out in all 28 Member States and the increased focus on the quality and number of offers will ensure that more and better opportunities under the Youth Guarantee are made available to every eligible young person and especially the most disadvantaged ones.
In addition, the European Solidarity Corps is an opportunity for people to express their solidarity in practice, while acquiring skills that can be valuable for them in terms of their continued education and training, or as a stepping-stone into the labour market.
Furthermore, spending time abroad to learn and study in another country is a unique experience. It helps young people discover new horizons and can change the course of their lives. Erasmus+ is a tried-and-tested way to open up this opportunity, and since its launch in 2014 almost 1.3 million young people have made use of it. Vocational education and training learners and apprentices will have the opportunities to enrich their mobility experiences through longer term work placements in another country.
Finally, the Commission will help Members States to modernise and improve education and training systems by providing comparative data, strengthening the evidence-base, carrying out analysis, promote mutual learning, sharing knowledge about good practice and offering targeted support, building on existing cooperation with the OECD. To this end, in 2017 the Commission will present specific initiatives to support modernisation efforts in Member States.The initiatives will address key issues in the fields of school education, including higher education as well as vocational education and training.
How will the EU mobilise its resources in support of young people?
In addition to the already considerable EU-level financial allocations, on 14 September 2016 in the context of the mid-term review of the Multiannual Financial Framework 2014–2020, the Commission proposed to increase the budget of Erasmus+ by €200 million.
The Commission also made a proposal to increase the budget for the Youth Employment Initiative by €2 billion. The Youth Employment Initiative was launched in 2013 with €6.4 billion of financial resources to provide, for the first time ever, direct and targeted support for young people not in employment, education or training residing in regions with youth unemployment rates higher than 25%.
What are the next steps?
The Commission will discuss the proposed measures with the European Parliament and Council and will seek the support of the European Council at its meeting in December 2016.
For more information
Press release - IP/16/4165
Questions and Answers on the European Solidarity Corps - MEMO/16/4168