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Youth at the heart of the ETF

Skills, competences and a sustainable future: young people in focus on World Youth Skills Day

Building stronger communities throughout Europe and its neighbouring countries is at the core of EU policies during this European Year of Youth 2022.

On World Youth Skills Day, Friday 15 July, the European Training Foundation (ETF) is highlighting its commitment to being at the heart of the Youth EcoSystem with its presentation Youth In Focus: Youth at the heart of the ETF.

In a union where young people under the age of 29 account for around one third of the EU 27’s population of 447 million, – and its neighbouring countries with often higher proportions – focusing on policies to support strong foundations for youth is essential for building strong, resilient economies and societies of the future.

Those born around the turn of the century – now aged 10–25 and collectively known as Generation Z or Gen Z – are characterised as being digital pioneers, accepting diversity as the norm, pragmatic and politically progressive. But that does not mean this generation does not need support today to become the leaders of tomorrow.

As Jutta Urpilainen, EU Commissioner for International Partnerships, says:

It is essential to invest in empowering young people, and invest in education, so they can learn the skills necessary to create a sustainable and stable future.

The ETF recognises that youth have borne the brunt of the latest challenges – the pandemic and challenges to sustaining education during that period, along with the tough economic conditions that have accompanied recent years, and now the severe cost of living crisis exacerbated by the war in Ukraine. The pandemic exposed a digital divide as those able to continue education had to turn to digital, distant access.

Today 1 in 10 young people across the EU is neither in employment nor in education or training (NEET). That figure rises across neighbouring regions – 1 in 5 in the Western Balkans and Turkey, 1 in 4 in the Eastern Partnership countries, and at times in recent years as many as 1 in 3 in the Southern Mediterranean.

The challenge facing policymakers today across Europe is to prioritise building the skills young people need today in order to produce active and economically productive citizens who can become the leaders of tomorrow.

In a recent joint statement in Tirana – the European Youth Capital 2022 – ETF interim director Xavier Matheu and Dafina Peci, Executive Director of the National Youth Congress of Albania, highlighted the importance of this focus.

Investing in the skills of our youth today is a prerequisite for building a prosperous future tomorrow. Young people’s adaptability, potential and creativity are the greatest catalysts for change.

The ETF’s role in supporting its partner countries in raising key competences across a range of lifelong learning strategies includes a strong focus on youth. By building the skills, competences, knowledge and attitudes of young people, more sustainable, healthy and wealthy communities can be built for the future.

Along with supporting global and community-wide strategies, such as the UN 2030 Sustainable Development Goals agenda – where around 90 of more than 230 specific goals are directly youth-related – the ETF is also working with the EU Youth Strategy 2019–2027 under the rubric 'Engage, Connect, Empower'.

The European Year of Youth 2022 also emphasises the role of young people in building a better, greener, more inclusive and digital future.

The ETF works through a range of policy approaches to keep youth at the heart of its work on building skills and competences through training and lifelong learning.

  • Governance – working with ministries for joined-up youth policies, laws and regulations.
  • Education and training – through recognition of prior learning, formal and non-formal learning; qualifications, careers guidance, modernisation of training programmes, the promotion of excellence.
  • Employment and entrepreneurship – skills demand analysis and forecasting, youth transition from school to work, work-based learning, entrepreneurship training.
  • Migration – actions to help young migrants, recognition of skills and qualifications.
  • Social inclusion – focus on non-formal education, recognition of prior learning and skills.

The ETF’s work in these areas includes:

  • a global mapping exercise of qualifications agencies and cross-country analysis on validation;
  • support in reviewing the Youth Guarantees of the Western Balkans, and analysing youth missing out on education and training in the Southern Mediterranean;
  • migration studies in Morocco, Tunisia, Ukraine, Georgia, Jordan, Moldova, and monitoring frameworks that assist informal training networks.

In summary, the ETF is dedicated to a youth-focused future. Plans for further work include supporting youth employability and employment across partner countries, improving transition to work through careers guidance, mapping skills needs, and improving knowledge of new ways of working, such as platform working. It will also extend its make-it-match network and regional work-based learning forums.

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Youth in focus