Young people far from the labour market have much to gain from mobility programmes. A workshop at the European Social Fund’s Transnational Platform final conference (21-22 May) heard from two young people who benefitted from their time abroad in ESF work-experience projects, and the support they received.
According to Eddy Adams, expert for the Youth Employment Thematic Network, young people not in employment, education or training (NEETs) need to understand their own talents, to overcome low self-esteem and few qualifications. They also need trusted relationships with supportive adults, a framework in which to learn and grow, and encouragement and guidance.
The idA programme in Germany has met these needs in its transnational mobility projects since 2008. Bettina Reuter from the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, said the aim is to integrate NEETs into employment or vocational training by improving their skills, knowledge and experience through traineeships in other EU countries.
An idA cycle begins with the recruitment of participants, followed by individual preparation. The stay abroad lasts from 2 to 6 months. A follow-up phase ensures benefits gained are not lost when participants return home. Crucially, support is provided at all stages.
“The results have been really astonishing,” claims Ms Reuter. From 2008 to 2014, 13 000 young people and 4 700 people with disabilities participated, and 60% of those were integrated into employment or education or training.
An idA project, RE/init, in Recklinghausen near Dortmund sends participants to Cork in Ireland where they live with host families, take a language course and then a work placement in an Irish company. This builds their self-confidence and develops talents and interests.
“I went to Cork for two months and worked for a small Irish company,” said Bastian Bichier. Unlike most of his group he had some previous training, as an electrician. “In Germany, I worked in a coal mine, but it closed. All the time in Ireland, the people taught me that I really should be more confident and try doing new things. It was the experience of my life. Back in Germany, most people get jobs. It was very good for us.”
Spanish Asociación Mundos provides working opportunities for young people via international cooperation. Pau Arqueros went to Poland for six weeks. With some previous experience, he did his traineeship as a 3-D designer in a marketing company. “It was a fantastic experience,” he said. “They involved me in the creative process. At first that responsibility was overwhelming, but the team was very supportive. I think the biggest benefit was gaining confidence to make decisions and take responsibility.”
One might think that learning professional skills is the main benefit of youth mobility programmes but beneficiaries reported that so-called ‘soft’ skills, such as people skills, communication skills, social intelligence and personal growth, are often the main gains.
The key recommendation of the workshop was that the ESF should continue with programmes that give disadvantaged young people the chance to gain work experience abroad.