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Microsoft word - summary of the youth employment seminar by andero uusberg.doc
Summary of the youth employment seminar
On the 19th and 20th of October, 2010, more than 60 youth field specialists gathered in
Tallinn to receive, share and develop ideas for combating youth unemployment. Over two
days, the seminar walked through universal problem solving phases, from conceptualizing the
current situation and mapping possible solutions, to choosing effective alternatives and
putting together action plans.
What is the problem?
In the presentation that opened the seminar, Egle Käärats, the Deputy Secretary General on Labour Policy at the Ministry of Social Affairs, said that compared to other countries in the EU, the unemployment level among youth in Estonia is second only to Spain. Fortunately the indicator that has brought us this unwelcome recognition (40% unemployment among those aged 15-24) isn't a percentage of this entire age group, but rather only from among those who are interested in finding work. In labour market terms, about 60% of youth belong to the inactive group, those who have focused on school, military service or just being young instead of seeking a job. When we talk about youth unemployment as one of the key problems of today's sociey, it's the rest we are talking about – the 40% who would like to work, but haven't found a suitable job.
Since the end of 2008, the share of young job seekers has consistently risen, especially among young men. Therefore, the high indicator in youth unemployment is due in part to the economic recession and recovery is promising relief to those young people who want to work as well. At the same time, unemployment here and elsewhere in the world is almost always higher among youth than it is among the general population. The main reason behind this is a vicious circle – the employer wants someone with experience, but for a young person looking for the first job this may be either lacking altogether or very difficult to prove.
Luckily, this vicious circle can eventually be broken – one way or another, all of today's employees have eventually found a job. This may lead to the question of whether youth unemployment is a problem that needs extra attention at all? However, it turns out that it does. In addition to the generally negative consequences of unemployment, this status is especially dangerous for a young person, because it can become chronic, so to speak. The change from being a student to being an employee is one that requires the development of several skills and attitudes, too many rejections in this sensitive phase can prove to be devastating. This is why combating youth unemployment isn't just important, but it's also one of the most effective ways of preventing long-term unemployment.
What to do?
Most of the presentations heard at the seminar dealt with methods that have been already tried in combating youth unemployment, either in Estonia or elsewhere in Europe. These solutions can be divided into four categories:
• Developing self-analysis skills and improving self-confidence
Speaking of supplementing education, it includes formal education as well as non-formal learning. The latter was something that we focused on during this seminar, exploring the role of youth work in preventing dropouts from formal education system and in supplementing those competencies acquired through formal education. During one of the best practices workshops, Astrid Org from the NGO Partnerlus pointed out many examples of trainings that target the personal growth and development of key competences of young people. Martin Arnold from the German youth think tank Platform in Erfurt (www.deine-plattform.info) and Marjan Van de Maele from the Belgian youth organization JES (www.jes.be) were the seminar's foreign resource people, presenting best practices from their contexts. They led workshops where they shared their ideas and practices about the power of youth work in supporting employability of young people.
Since, according to employers, young people are left aside in job competitions mostly because of a lack of experience, many good practices involve the elimination of this problem. This mechanism also has a central role in many of the Platform e.V.'s activities. For example, in Erfurt they gather long-term unemployed youth and made a "company" that "sells" the volunteer work of its members to various projects that deal with culture or charity ((youth-company.de). In the second project (www.ladebalken.info), groups of unemployed youths are offered "business modules" (for example, workshops, micro-financing and counselling) to bring to life ideas that have social relevance on different levels. The participants of these projects can at once gain new work experience and experience how an organization works, which significantly improves their competitivity on the labour market.
When delving into the psychology of a young person, it turns out that in addition to the lack of work experience, obstacles can also arise from the inability to analyse their own abilities, knowledge, skills and attitudes in the context of the labour market. Often this leads to a disproportionally low or high self-esteem. This is why the third type of youth employment initiatives has been geared towards supporting development of self-reflection skills and attitudes that are related to work and the self. One example of such initiatives can be the Belgian project "C-Stick" (cstick.lithium.be). Technically, this tool consists of a memory stick and the software that has been loaded onto it, which allows a young person to compile in different formats (in addition to text, also in audio, photo or video formats) all the proof they may have about their competence and experiences. Additionally, this software helps with self-analysis and allows the gathered material to be formatted into an array of different CVs with ease.
A rather similar approach, though in a different way, was presented by Piret Jeedas, a trainer who introduced the long-term training project of Estonian National Agency of Youth in Action programme. She talked about the project "Tulen turule" ("Off to the Market"), where young people compiled their video CVs (euroopa.noored.ee/tulenturule). Creating an introduction in
this format teaches young people to not only present their competencies in a rather challenging context, but also makes them sense and realise them in a more adequate way. Here many presenters also pointed out the need to raise young people's awareness to notice and value youth work or non-formal learning experiences that they have had in a context other than formal education or official work experience.
When it comes to practical tools that help make the activities geared towards the youth as attractive and effective as possible, the seminar participants also had the chance to test a board game that is being developed by the Estonian Youth Work Centre. With the help of this board game, young people can gain knowledge about the labour market and factors supporting their employability. The specialists enjoyed the process of the game, but also kept a close eye on the trivia questions in the game, so this resulted in a lot of feedback that will help in the further development of this board game.
Lastly, since the labour market consists of several significant parties, it makes sense to also include these other parties in combating youth unemployment, especially the employers. For example in the project "Off to the Market", employers were included to provide young people with internship and job interview possibilities. The employers' perspective was also significant when instructions for creating the video CVs were being drafted. However, it can generally be said that not many solutions in this category were drafted during the seminar, which is clear evidence of the constructive attitude of those who came to the seminar – "let's talk about what we (!) can bring to life instead." However, when combined with practical experience and the opinions of the young people, the youth field has the potential to be a serious partner in wider developmental discussions as well – this is something that Ott Heidmets pointed out in his presentation on the morning of the first day. In particular, the Estonian National Youth Council is presenting several propositions to the Parliament, which also include measures targeted towards the employers, such as a social tax benefit to employers who hire young people and relieving supplementary education and training from the special tax that it is currently burdened with.
How to do it?
So the range of possibilities for action is rather wide and in order to succeed, the best actions have to be chosen for certain contexts. To meet this objective, during the second day of the seminar there were discussions held, where groups of participants had the opportunity to work through the ideas that were important to them. In order to provide information about possibilities to put ideas for future action into practice, Marit Kannemäe-Geerts from the Estonian National Agency for Youth in Action gave a compact overview of financing possibilities within the Youth in Action program, in addition to a brief overview of the possibilities provided by the ESF program "Developing quality of Youth Work". Her information was followed by Kati Plukk from the Estonian Youth Work Centre and Kadri Korjas from the Estonian Unemployment Insurance Fund, who introduced a youth employment specialists' networking project called "Mind the Gap" that was initiated within the framework of the EU Lifelong Learning program. They also gave examples of other actions taken around Europe and a local program called TAHE. Within the TAHE program, young people who have registered as unemployed at the Unemployment Insurance Fund get
the chance to work in youth organisations and youth centres as volunteers. The program is coordinated by the Estonian Youth Work Centre.
After this, Astrid Org gave a push to get the discussions about future actions started, but the way it gathered momentum and yielded substantial results was probably a surprise to her as well. After the first round of discussions, we focused on six subjects that provoked the most excitement and were truly realistic ideas. The idea to organize a youth unemployment camp "Get to Work in 5 Days" was developed even to the stages scheduling and picking the team to do it. In the next group, there were developments regarding on how to find solutions for the lack of cooperation between the public and third sector organizations that deal with supporting the employment of young people with special needs. In the international working group, they polished a project that would send volunteers to take a role of mentors in schools and help provide a personal approach and new source of motivation to those kids who are at risk of dropping out. The fourth team designed an umbrella organization, which would take the forum theatre, a method that has already been proven to be effective and that is also gaining popularity in Estonia, and make it one of the tools in the arsenal of youth employment initiatives. A group led by the co-ordinator of the website www.firstjob.ee generated a list of suggestions for further developing the web community, while using the volunteering resources that are already available and suitable for the project. The sixth idea that was developed involved the creation of a youth employment organization that would gather relevant information from the field, as well as manage a network of specialists. With the help of the Youth in Action office representatives, many groups also found potential financing sources for their ideas.
In addition to the ideas mentioned above, a unique visualisation form was given to almost all of the other more significant ideas that were “in the air” during those two days. This was done by two young artists – Siiri Taimla and Tanel Rannala, who together make up a "verbal flow visualisation unit" called Joonmeedia. Their works from this (and also from many other events) can be seen here: joonmeedia.blogspot.com.
It seems to me that at this seminar, significant groundwork was done for making many good ideas come to life. Thank you very much to all the presenters, participants, organizers and financial supporters!
The seminar was organized by the Archimedes Foundation Youth in Action Estonian office. In developing the seminar, valuable assistance was given by the Estonian Youth Work Centre and other partners from the field of youth and employment. The seminar was financed with resources from the program "Quality Development of Youth Work" 1.1.0201.08-0001, a collaboration between the European Social Fund and the Republic of Estonia.
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THE JOURNEY HOME by Selina I. Glater, M.A., R.M.T. For many of my young adult years I had no hope. In August of 1987, following my 30th birthday, the demons began to crowd in around me. I had just finished my Master's degree in musicology and was headed off to take a job in arts management in Dallas, Texas when the bottom fell out of my life raft. For years tremendous mood swings ravaged m