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We need to take care of our young Europeans' future

Joanna Katarzyna SKRZYDLEWSKA
12.02.2014 - 10:00
Believe in People campaign; young girl with Joanna Skrzydlewska

They speak English as well as they speak Polish. They have already learned a lot during their studies, they show plenty of enthusiasm and they are full of dreams. They are currently graduating, or have just graduated, and they want to become politicians, businessmen or teachers. These are the young Poles of today, who come to my office in Brussels to do an internship.

Internships provide valuable work and life experience

I like to observe them. Immediately after their arrival they are a bit shy, sometimes even frightened by the scale of the European Parliament building and the multilingual crowd of people and politicians that, until now, they have seen only on TV.

On top of that, they are in an unknown city, where they have to find an apartment, get to the metro station and make sure to catch the right train to report to work on time. Here there are no friends, no family, because everybody stayed in Poland. And from their very first day at the office they get a list of tasks to do: documents to translate, briefing notes from committee meetings to write, working group meetings to attend and a few more documents to read and summarize.

I don't employ interns to remember the old times, but to help them find their place, reality-check their expectations and give them some preparation Joanna Skrzydlewska MEP

Each day this to-do list is different, but this is the way in which they can learn more. If they don't know something, don't know how to deal with a problem, they ask questions. At the beginning timidly, but after two or three days they feel at ease with the ambiance of the European Parliament, with the parliamentary assistants and with the MEPs themselves, who cease to be some anonymous people from the television.

Building confidence in our youth

Observing my interns reminds me of my first steps in my first serious job, the one after graduation. I was also directly thrown in at the deep end. I started my career as an assistant to the Mayor of Lodz. I accompanied my boss during important political negotiations and meetings with foreign investors and businessmen. I was, among other things, preparing documents, drafting notes, scheduling meetings and organising trips. It was not easy, because my boss was demanding, and the local government has its own unique culture, something that they don't teach you at school. But the experience I gained had a huge impact on the rest of my life.

I don't employ interns to remember the old times, but to help them find their place, reality-check their expectations and give them some preparation. The subject of the future of European youth is particularly important for me. In the European Parliament I was dealing with ways to tackle youth unemployment. I firmly believe that by investing in the future of young people we are investing in the future of Europe. And an internship is a valuable bridge between the education system and labour markets. Young people get to learn new skills and adapt their qualifications to match demand on the labour market. At the end of their adventure in the European Parliament all my interns say that this job was for them an important and valuable experience which will certainly bear fruit in the future.

However, there should be no room for abuse. This is why the Parliament calls for quality standards for pay, working conditions and health and safety standards in traineeships. It is a first step to improving the situation of young people on the labour market.

We believe in people. #believeinpeople @jskrzydlewska

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