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Young workers' exchange between Alps and seaside

Integrating young people into the labour market is one of today’s most important challenges. Jeunes Emplois Mobilité (JEM), a regional network of local agencies in the south-eastern French region Rhône-Alpes, has decided to try a different approach to this task – using labour mobility to improve the qualification of young workers.

Europe Top Depart is a project for professional training, which is organised by JEM and supported by the European Union programme Leonardo da Vinci. Within this project, the French network initiated in 2004 a partnership with the Kentro Eppagelmatikis Anaptixis (KEA), a centre for vocational training on the island of Crete. Initially this project made it possible for ten young people from the Rhône-Alpes region to complete in the summer of 2005 a three month internship at KEA’s offices in Crete. This first experiment was a full success. The participants had to deal with completely new living and working conditions. They had to get used to a very different cultural and social environment as well as an unfamiliar language – and they accomplished with excellence.

The selection process for the ten interns was very thorough. After a pre-selection by the French project partner, a KEA representative came from Crete to take part in the final recruitment of candidates. The Greek visitor was also introduced to JEM’s numerous other support activities for young people entering the labour market.

Following this experience, the French and Greek partners agreed on a more permanent cooperation. This continuous project provides a regular exchange of seasonal workers in the tourist sector and, as a positive side effect, also helps local tourist enterprises during periods of working force shortage. The essential objective though is to give young people the chance to gain experience in an international working environment and improve their professional and language skills.

The project is of course not a one-way street. In December 2005, a young Cretan cook was recruited by a hotel in the Rhône-Alpes region for an overall period of three and a half months. The French organisers supported his stay in France by providing information on administrative and legal requirements, organising his transfer and assuring continuous guidance to employer and employee. Thanks to the high motivation of the Cretan employee and the support of the French employer their joint experience was more than positive.

Yet another group of young French workers was sent to work in Crete in the summer of 2006. Two of the participants had already taken part in the mobility programme Europe Top Depart, which features besides Crete also Spain and Ireland. They were familiar with the context and successfully found a job in the tourism industry in Crete. KEA acted again as the local partner, supported access to employment opportunities and provided help with accommodation as well as legal and administrative issues.

The initiative between France and Greece is likely to result in future exchanges and thus promote mutual mobility of seasonal workers. It is a good example of using our large European labour market in a very positive way.

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