Young People and the Future of Work: Three key functions for the ESF

Young People and the Future of Work: Three key functions for the ESF


What are the things we need to keep in mind when preparing young people for working life? Eddy Adams, the expert for the Youth Employment Network of the European Social Fund’s Transnational Platform (ESF TP) gives us a few pointers.

With the industry 4.0 revolution in full swing, our concept of how we prepare young people for working life is deeply challenged.

There are, however, some evident patterns mapped out ahead.

  • Hundreds of thousands of jobs will be replaced as the Baby Boomers enter retirement. This issue seems to have been rather overlooked but the European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training’s Skills Panorama activity sets this out quite clearly.   
  • In many sectors jobs are being reshaped by digital. This means the replacement jobs will require at least basic digital competences. The New Skills Agenda for Europe addresses the fact that 44% of Europeans lack these.  
  • Rewiring our curricula is urgent. It’s a challenge, and that is why initiatives like the Blueprint on Sectoral Cooperation for Skills are so important.
  • The rise in credentialism (the belief in formal qualifications as the best measure of a person's intelligence or ability to do a particular job), portfolio careers and the explosion of casual opportunities driven by the Platform Economy need to be addressed.

It is widely feared that these developments will only exacerbate existing inequalities so what can the ESF do?

How the ESF can help those most affected

There are three major areas where the ESF is supporting work that will only become more important as the expected changes unfold:

  • Developing effective career guidance as exemplified by the Finnish Ohjaamo model- one of the most advanced models of an Integrated Service Centre in Europe
  • Encouraging transnational mobility to build confidence levels, self-awareness and resilience amongst disadvantaged young people. A good example of this is Germany’s IdA programme
  • Stimulating entrepreneurial skills and attitudes. Some effective examples of this include the Prince's Trust supporting disadvantaged youth to start their own business and the Articulate Hub which focuses on the creative and cultural industry sector, both in Glasgow, as well as the Impact Hub in Athens supporting young people into the social enterprise sector, another dimension to the self-employment spectrum.

What more needs to be done?

The ESF+ (2021-27) proposal aims to retain a strong focus on young people, in line with Member States’ challenges.  A recent Future of Work report by the International Labour Organisation maps out a comprehensive opportunity, which could be relevant for investment support through the ESF.

In the meantime, as its own activity draws to a close, the Youth Employment network will pay particular attention to these issues, as it encourages Managing Authorities to transfer and implement some of the innovations the TN witnessed first hand.