Although all events happen only once in a lifetime some will remember longer than others. As such the Forum on Employment and Entrepreneurship in Ronda is clearly one of the most notable experiences I have recently had. The event was organized with a great eye for detail, and there was a perfect balance between stimulating debates, vivid discussions and time for more informal talks with individual speakers and participants. Furthermore, because I had the honor to be on the first panel of the Europe@Debate with other FutureLab participants and Dr. Lieve Fransen, the Director for Social Policies and Europe2020 in the European Commission.
Together with fellow FutureLab participants, Daniel Gjokjeski and Estefania Almenta, we brought up to the stage the different concerns from the perspectives of (still priviledged) European young people nowadays. I discussed with Dr. Fransen in particular what young Europeans think about European policies to improve education and tackle youth unemployment. The world has become more competitive and young people are required to adapt by acquiring more knowledge, skills and expertise to be fit for the current labor market. Yet also the market should be more open to young people that are motivated and available, for instance by putting in place personal development programmes. However, can we really expect ‘the market’ to deliver here?
We thus discussed where the EU could play an increasing role in this – in the context of the objectives set out in Europe 2020 on education and development. In order to tackle unacceptable levels of youth unemployment and social exclusion, a package of diverse programmes has been suggested by the European Commission, to improve young people’s access to jobs, education and training. Dr. Fransen mentioned some of these latest initiatives to support and increase training of young people, create a strong cooperation between universities and companies, raise awareness of the benefits of apprenticeships and spread experience and good practice. In these terms, the Youth Employment Package has been introduced and the European Alliance for Apprenticeships plays an important role in identifying the most successful apprenticeship schemes in the EU and applying appropriate solutions in each Member State. In addition to that, the Social Investment Package has an overall extension to the working-age population in Europe, covering the key policy areas: education, quality childcare, healthcare, training, job-searching assistance and rehabilitation. However, it is up to each Member State to prepare the strategy to deliver a national Youth Guarantee scheme and ensure that all the measures and reforms are in place.
Let me conclude by mentioning that I was positively impressed by Dr. Fransen’s modesty and openness towards discussion as well as her approach towards young people’s potential. I left the forum with a great sense of optimism: meeting energetic young people from all over Europe, with thoughts stimulated by speakers in the field of innovation and entrepreneurship – looking forward to further brightful informal discussions… and hoping that these will not only stay in the level of unmaterialized talk.