"In a a context of record levels of youth unemployment in Europe, this report is about how non-formal learning and especially youth work can enhance the creative and innovative capacities of young people in ways that are relevant to employability. It goes beyond identifying the skills and competences involved, to present illustrative examples of practice and cross-sectoral cooperation. In arguing that investment in non-formal learning pays economic and social dividends, it is important to keep in mind that young people are more than just a potential workforce, and should not be perceived only in the context of their situation in the labour market.
Among young people are potential philosophers, artists, writers, entrepreneurs, craftsmen and women – people who will create, who will constitute, who will continue Europe’s culturally rich and unique traditions. Although support is needed in the current situation, it is also an investment in Europe’s human and cultural capital. The argument, therefore, is not about changing young people because their alleged lacking is the cause of unemployment. Instead the emphasis is on their potential contribution to improvements in social and economic conditions.
The main message is about the need to improve and widen the recognition of non-formal learning, and not just in relation to employability. A better equipped workforce is required; one that can interact effectively with young people, especially those who are disadvantaged and lack access to the jobs market. The workers need an improved curriculum, and an investment in training, to stimulate the innovative and creative capacities within young people. They need access to commonly accepted recognition tools and to improved practices that can be used in their own social and cultural contexts. At all levels, the different sectors and stakeholders need to come together to provide a supportive environment for the work, while incentives and initiatives need to galvanise the social partners for effective interaction."
Dr John Bamber
Chair of the EU Expert Group
Youth work outcomes and the requirements of the labour market
Recent research (European Economic and Social Committee, 2013), also offers various interpretations of the skills needed in the labour market.
The core concepts alternate between ‘employability’, ‘soft skills’, ‘transversal skills’, ‘life skills’ or even individual characteristics and traits. The skills described significantly overlap with the European Key Competencies for Lifelong Learning (2006/962/EC), which are:
Team-work, adaptability and flexibility, self-confidence and intercultural skills are said to be amongst those developed to a greater extent in youth organisations compared to formal education systems. Similar outcomes in terms of skill and capacity development are identified in a recent map of the international youth work research literature found a range of benefits from engagement in youth work including ‘information, practical skills, enhanced educational or employment opportunities; and less tangible ones such as confidence, self-esteem, tolerance and sociability’. The skills correspond to those most frequently demanded by employers. A recent survey of 1000 individuals (employed and unemployed) and 100 employers in Ireland (Accenture, 2013), for example, resulted in the following ranking of the skills most needed.
These sorts of skills are a key element for successful job performance both nationally and internationally (Shanks et al, 2013; Manpower Group, 2013). The value of these skills and those who possess them is set to increase, with leadership, teamwork and innovation and creativity becoming even more important in the next three year. In the longer term, The Future of Work study identifies ten skills needed in the future labour market. For example:
The drivers for these sorts of skills are said to be increasing longevity of human beings, the rise of smart machines and automation systems, the consequences of a computerised world, new media ecology, the super structuring of organisations, and the globally connected world. The changes in society, in economy, in technology and media lead to ever increasing demands on flexibility and ability to adapt to new circumstances.
It is inevitable therefore, that innovation, creativity and problem solving abilities will be central in a fast developing world.
Blades put the various descriptions, definitions and interpretations of the skills and capabilities needed in the labour market into four main categories. These are:
The attention of policy makers at European, national, regional and local levels is now firmly focused on the fact that the total of young people not in employment, education or training, is currently around 14 million in the EU. At the European level the policy response takes the form of programmes such as Erasmus +, and funding streams such as the Youth Employment Initiative (2013). The Council and the Commission have also produced a stream of papers and pronouncements providing direction for developments in Member States, who need to act in ways that are consistent with their own traditions and socio-economic position. In general, there is a great deal of knowledge about the problem, with less about how to resolve it.
It is recognised that the situation of young people is not uniform, with wide variations in the levels of youth unemployment between Member States. Even within Member States particular social groups are more likely to suffer the consequences of unemployment than others, and there is a need to focus on the disadvantaged and those furthest from the labour market.
The role of youth work
Youth work can play a key role in reaching out to all young people. For those with fewer opportunities, youth work supports re-integration, through its close and informal contacts with young people, youth-friendly outreach and ability to instil trust in young people to get in touch with authorities. It provides individual support on occupational orientation and counselling, tailored to the particular challenges of different young people, in an informal environment.
The purpose of youth work is not to provide jobs but engagement in the wide variety of personal and social development activities that it offers, helps young people to develop the knowledge, skills, and attitudes that are frequently said to be needed in the labour market. These include teamwork, communication, leadership, flexibility and responsiveness. They also include creativity and innovation, which involve defining problems, coming up with ways of dealing with them, and sticking to a chosen course of action. In this way youth work contributes to closing the gap between the competences acquired by young people and the needs of the labour market.
Developing entrepreneurial skills in young people can be a multi-faceted and sophisticated response to the problem of youth people unemployment. At one level, it is about working with young people in school and in non-formal settings to raise awareness of the world of business. It is achieved by training teachers and youth works to deliver an internationally recognised youth entrepreneurship education and development programme.
On another level, as the example of NESst shows, it is about enabling young people to draw from business techniques to create a social purpose enterprise in a financially sustainable way. A further option is to work with young people to find practical solutions to social issues and problems.
There is a need for:
"Innovation is a driver of growth and well-being. New technologies, products, services and organisations create jobs and rejuvenate industries – while making others obsolete.
To reap the gains of innovation, policy makers need to understand how the way we innovate is changing and what this implies for education and training policies. "
European Youth Network for Creativity and Innovation