As politicians, we try to inspire visions for the future, we lay the ground for their realisation and gather momentum for worthy causes - causes that change people's lives, shape our economy and society. The brightest political ideas, the most far-reaching thoughts are those grounded in current, day-to-day challenges and issues. Any vision would otherwise be in danger of becoming but a mere illusion.
A wake-up call to look for future-proof solutions
The truth is, Europe has a problem. A problem that threatens its future. Statistics show that one in 5 young people under the age of 24 is currently not in education, employment or training (NEET). Youth unemployment rates are generally much higher (up to twice as high) than those for other age groups, and there are a number of other issues that contribute to a rather disheartening situation. Together with the continent’s ageing population and workforce, this should serve as a wake-up call to stop, analyse the problem and look for future-proof solutions.
Instead, extreme left parties across Europe are pushing for a return to discussions of welfare provision, shifting public debate away from the important issue at hand - namely, how to motivate and enable young people to fulfil their professional aspirations, to become the creators of jobs and the engines of the economy, rather than simply its beneficiaries.
An Alliance for Youth to enhance youth employment
The European Institutions have been engaged in this issue for several years now with the Youth Employment Package launched by the European Commission in 2012. Ever since, enhancing career opportunities for young people has been at the heart of EU policies and the driver of several initiatives.
The business world, which never lags behind politics, also stepped in on this occasion forming an alliance similar to the European Commission's European Alliance for Apprenticeships. This time, however, it was not the Commission's Directorates-General, but hundreds of companies that kick-started a project aimed at supporting the Commission’s efforts to solve both today’s youth unemployment crisis and tomorrow’s burden of an ageing workforce.
‘Alliance for YOUth’ brought together nearly 200 companies from across Europe, pledging to create 100,000 jobs and traineeship opportunities over three years. Since the start of the initiative in 2014, half of this target has been reached - the Alliance has brought 50,000 young people into employment. How has this been achieved?
Firstly, companies were encouraged to take on young people. Hiring well-educated but relatively inexperienced professionals can be risky, but hundreds of member companies decided that it is a risk worth taking. It has, does and will continue to pay off.
Secondly, young people between 16 and 24 were offered tailored apprenticeships and traineeship programmes to build their skills - an important overture to a successful professional career.
Thirdly, advice and support was offered to young people in their first attempts to enter the labour market, for instance in job application and interview preparation - practicalities that nevertheless make the difference between success and failure.
Creating an economy that demands jobs
The Alliance will probably even exceed its target because it is based on a very clear market logic - creating opportunities, rewarding talent, enhancing productivity. We in the EPP family believe that we should tackle youth unemployment not by simply providing grants and funding, but by fostering the appropriate conditions for business to thrive, by creating an economy that demands jobs and not vice-versa - just like the Alliance did.
Getting the business sector involved and engaged in supporting young people is the only sustainable way to fight the high rates of youth unemployment. No social programme and no state subsidy can prepare one for a successful professional future as well as a business can.
With the help of politics, we can multiply these results by getting more actors together, building a momentum, setting our targets and following through.
Here is a vision that not only inspires, but most importantly, it works.
Nobody can speak better for the youth than the young people themselves. It is time to engage. It's #UpToUs.
We believe in people. #believeinpeople @evapaunova