Experts` opinion: Youngsters should gain international experiences
In European Youth Week 2015 the Archimedes Foundation Youth Agency Estonia visited a well –known Estonian social scientist, communication professor and a member of European Parliament Marju Lauristin to find out about the situation in international labour market and the influence of an international experience to a youngsters future.
Youth (15 -24) unemployment rate in Europe is quite high. In some of the countries it’s more than 40% (Spain, Greece). On average the unemployment rate in Europe is 11%, but youth unemployment rate is 25. Why is the situation like this? Why are young people compared to the other age groups in such an uneven position?
There are many reasons actually. The statistics includes also 15-year old youth, so I think that the age limits are too low and we should look different youth groups more closely. But in addition we have regrettably large amount of young people who cannot find jobs after they fall out from school or even if they graduate. One of the reasons is that they haven’t learned what the job market really needs and have created themselves some unrealistic expectations. The other part is that if during the crisis many of the jobs disappeared the competition in the labor market grew immensely. In some countries especially young people lost their jobs and since older ad middle –aged people held to their jobs very tightly, there weren’t many vacancies left. And there still aren’t. In many countries, for example, Southern-Europe, the crisis continues.
On the other hand, in countries that got over the crisis faster, the youth unemployment rate has fallen. For example in Estonia, the youth unemployment rate is not that high anymore. It’s around 15% at the moment, but during the crisis it was 27. Back then, it really was hard for a youngster to find a job. Right now it seems that there are sectors that really need young people to come and work for them, but cannot find any. The problem is that young people very often don’t have the suitable preparation.
So the question really is how to put education system and labor market working together. The problem comes from both sides and the efforts should be mutual. Employers, labor market and education system, as well as the attitudes of young people themselves should work together. Cooperation between different parts of the labor market should be the priority number one right now.
What should a young person study not to fear unemployment in the future?
I’d say something in connection to IT. Estonian IT- sector has said that they would hire thousands of youngsters in a heartbeat if there was any with proper preparation. One priority all over Europe is the united digital services market. Estonia here is the frontrunner. There are many digital services at the moment, but there will be even more- Also, these we have so far will keep developing. I think that young people especially, who are very skilled when it comes to computers, could think what services to add. For example they could to gather together a bunch of friends and start their own little firm. Something really big could grow from there. I know that Skype was built this way.
But there are also more areas, for example woodworking industry and areas connected to it – construction, furniture making etc. In Estonia woodworking sector is doing quite well but they also can’t find young workers.
And there is also service sector. In Estonia, there could be more personal services starting from little coffee shops to, I don’t know, making jewelry. Creative young person who cannot go to university or don’t want to study some common subjects can find many possibilities for him/herself.
How can young people become competitive in an international labor market?
Estonian young people are doing quite well in an international labor market. Estonians for example have many advantages. First, they speak quite good English and that is something all young people do not. Sometimes here in Belgium or Strasbourg I meet people working in a customer service field and they don’t speak any other languages besides French at all. I believe that in those countries young people who do speak English or other languages would be very useful. Especially when communicating to tourists. So I think knowing many languages is a big advantage. The other thing is computer skills, it is also very important. Third, young people who go abroad by themselves are usually very bold and eager. Researches show, that youth who have lived abroad for a while, managed their lives there successfully have a positive self-image and positive feelings about their future possibilities after returning to their home countries.
In your opinion, are young people usually bold and do they believe in themselves?
There are two groups of Estonian youth: the ones who have or who are capable to find boldness and faith; and the others who have given up totally or who could if they wanted, but they lack self-esteem. Young people need support and encouragement. I think that schools especially should train young people not to give up and not to settle with only average results. Young people need to be taught how to find better results and possibilities inside themselves. Schools should offer the experience that if a person is not the best in one area, s/he is really good in something else. Schools should give experiences of success and knowledge that if something fails, there is always a chance to start over or to do something else. It’s very important that young people doesn’t feel like failures.
Even very successful youngsters who have done really well should always be ready that not so good things may come ahead in life. They should be taught that everything is not over when things don’t go their way, but courage to start over; to look themselves in a mirror and think: if I didn’t manage with that, what really suits me, what do I really want. Young people should be taught how to make a turn in their life, to start over with totally different things. These things are very important.
Does an international experience give an advantage in the labor market?
It depends on the employer, but if s/he is wise enough, then yes. A wise employer certainly recognizes if a person has seen how things are done elsewhere. They value the fact that their employee was able to cope in an international environment and improve their language and many other skills too. Youth with an international experience have new ideas, they have the opportunity to compare things, they are critical. They don’t think everything in their home country is the best. Instead they say: things can be done in the other way as well and maybe we should try too. I think that an employee like that is a great value to the company.
What can international experience also give?
Young people, who have gone abroad, coped over there and communicated with lots of people from other cultures, they carry a big fortune back to their home country. They are way more open, they are used to seeing themselves and their country from apart. Also the ability to make contacts with people from different culture, clients perhaps, it’s a really big thing! We want our services and goods to be sold throughout the world, don’t we? We want people to come to our country and buy our goods and services. But with all this we need people who are able to make contacts with customers from other countries and cultures. Young people’s international experiences are crucial when it comes to the development of their country!
Multiculturalism, internationalism and tolerance to people from other cultures are really important topics at the moment…
Yes, these topics are actual all over Europe. These people who arrive to Italy, they are usually well educated people who are escaping from the horrors going on in their home country. These people do not see any future for them in Africa and that’s why they are coming here. I see here a big challenge here, for young people especially. The whole refugee topic was raised by volunteers who were helping them. Young people are very sympathetic. I think that youth all over Europe should unite and go and help the refugees in Italy. Personal contacts like this can erase fears and create real solidarity.
The interview was carried out and edited by Evelin Koppel, communication specialist, Archimedes Foundation Youth Agency Estonia