Supporting youth employment and skills development in the EU neighbourhood
Guided by EU policies and practice, the ETF provides policy advice and guidance for the reform of education and labour market systems to support youth employment, engagement and inclusion in partner countries in the EU's neighbourhood. In cooperation with other organisations at national, regional, European and international levels we undertake targeted studies, interventions and regular policy progress monitoring which takes into account the socio-economic characteristics of each country and focuses on the most vulnerable groups, as outlined below.
Understanding NEETs (Not in Employment, Education, or Training)
Although prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, youth unemployment was declining in the ETF partner countries in South Eastern Europe and Turkey, and the Eastern Partnership regions, and to a lesser degree in Central Asia, the ETF’s latest round of the Torino Process 2018-2020 found that in 2020, on average, one in every four young people in the ETF partner countries were not in education, training or employment (NEET) and women were disproportionately represented. This figure rises to one in three young people for the Southern and Eastern Mediterranean region. A particular policy challenge identified is that for many, being a NEET appears to be a choice.
Young people not in employment, education or training (NEETs) by country (2016-20)
Notes: data for Armenia, Egypt, Georgia, Jordan, Kyrgyzstan, Tunisia and Ukraine: ETF calculations based on Labour Force Survey microdata; data for Moldova: estimated using usual resident population. Wources: ETF 2020, Eurostat
In the Southern and Eastern Mediterranean an ETF study explores the reason why such large numbers of young people are in the NEET category. These include an economic volatility which limits employment opportunities and hampers capacity for adequate investment in socioeconomic development, an under-developed private sector, high numbers of school dropouts, occupation mismatch due to inadequate or irrelevant schooling, and also a large number of educated women inactive in the labour market due to domestic commitments.
In South Eastern Europe and Turkey the education prospects of young people are more promising with an improvement in the skills generated through upper secondary, including vocational education and training (VET), and tertiary education, helped by collaboration between schools and the business sector and private sector engagement in delivering internships and apprenticeships. More information on the value of public-private partnerships with case studies from the Western Balkans and Turkey can be found in the ETF publications presented at an event jointly hosted by the European Training Foundation and the Western Balkans 6 Chamber Investment Forum (WB6 CIF).
The ETF supports a broad engagement of stakeholders in partner countries in the design, implementation and adaptation of national policies on education, skills and employment and together with the employer representatives and trade unions recognises the vital contribution of civil society.
Our work is informed by regular monitoring and evaluation together with national stakeholders as with the Torino Process, the Osnabruck Declaration Process, thematic and country based data collection and analyses and regular events bringing together key stakeholders. Policies need to reconcile various goals to enhance education, skills and employment including ensuring the protection of rights, particularly in emerging areas as with platform workers discussed in the ETF event "Innovation and Adaptation of Active Labour Market Policies to Changing Economic and Social Conditions".
Overcoming exclusion of young people is a multifaceted issue and policy measures must address the unique situation of those already already at risk due for example to their gender, ethnicity, disability or migrant status. For the latter, the ETF is working to improve skills intelligence on migration to help young migrants build their skills and secure employment.
Education and training
Ensuring equality of opportunity in the labour market, particularly in new and changing sectors resulting from the digital and green transitions requires quality, inclusive and efficient education and training for lifelong learning, and inclusive access and outreach with the recognition of non-formal and informal learning.
Micro-credentials can be a tool to bring short courses and credentials into the qualification system in order to enhance initial employment and upskilling pathways for young people, and to provide additional learning opportunities for vulnerable groups and those who have dropped out of formal education. Check out the ETF’s latest policy brief ‘Micro-Credentials are Taking Off’ about how they are supporting upskilling and reskilling in response to transformations in labour markets.
In partnership with other organisations, the ETF supports the development of appropriate skills and competences through the enrichment and reform of the curriculum with the help of the EUs competence development frameworks (DigComp, GreenComp, LifeComp, and EntreComp), the development of qualifications frameworks, recognition of prior learning, and professional development of teachers and trainers. Our work is supported by a series of learning networks such as the ETF Network of Vocational Excellence (ENE), the Community of Innovative Educators, and the GLAD network which supports partnerships and enhances the contribution of multiple stakeholders to the governance of vocational education and training, skills development and lifelong learning. We are also supporting the institutional readiness of schools through the EU’s SELFIE tool.
Better integrated labour market and skills information systems and solid career guidance can help young people in all the EU’s neighbourhood regions to navigate in uncertain and volatile labour markets as presented in a joint publication by six international organisations including the ETF, “Investing in Career Guidance”. Career development strategies can also be embedded within wider policy areas, including reskilling and upskilling programmes such as the Youth Guarantee Scheme.
New financial and capacity-building instruments are also needed to promote and spur impact investment that will ensure a robust and agile private sector, support youth programmes and activities, ensure sustainability in skills creation and retention, reduce brain drain and support the creation of high value-added jobs, as highlighted in the publication from the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre and the ETF which is focused on the Western Balkans region, “Exploration of Impact investment for Skills Creation”.
Youth Guarantee in the Western Balkans
Supporting young people in finding work or training has been a priority in the European Union since 2013, when the EU Youth Guarantee was launched and EU member states aimed to ensure young people receive a "good quality offer of employment, continued education, apprenticeship or a traineeship" within a period of four months of becoming unemployed or leaving education.
At the Brdo EU-Western Balkans ministerial meeting on employment and social affairs in July, 2021 the Youth Guarantee was launched in the Western Balkans in response to the COVID-19 crisis, the digital and green transitions and following the milestone endorsement of the ‘Western Balkans Declaration on ensuring sustainable labour market integration of young people’.
The European Commission, together with the International Labour Organization (ILO), the European Training Foundation (ETF), and representatives from the Western Balkans launched the preparation of Youth Guarantee Implementation Plans and the Technical Assistance Facility to support this process in October 2021. The declaration also recognised the importance of involving international partners and donors in the process to ensure effective coordination of cooperation efforts.
The Youth Guarantee is an outcome based structural reform for which the means of implementation can vary across countries and regions taking into account the needs of the local labour market. Under the Technical Assistance Facility, the relevant authorities and stakeholders from the Western Balkans will receive support from the ILO and the ETF for designing Youth Guarantee schemes.
The ETF supports the implementation by providing policy advice and guidance on major components of the Guarantee, such as skills development implications of transition from school to work. A series of events to support the process have also begun focusing on the role of public private partnerships and the recent event on the validation of non-formal and informal learning in April 2022.
The ETF is also supporting progress monitoring of the scheme with a wider aim of developing system level monitoring and evaluation of youth-centred programmes within each country, be it activation, training, employment, or entrepreneurship support.
Incentives for youth start-ups are an example of the subsidised employment offers which can be made available under the Youth Guarantee scheme. An ETF study on youth potential in South Eastern Europe and Turkey draws attention to the need for improved public and private training provision in all ETF partner countries by closely following the needs of learners and where they are on their entrepreneurial journeys and providing additional support through peer-to-peer learning and coaching.
The study also points to challenges in reaching out to the young people most in need, but that progress has been made in the capacities of public employment services in the region to engage with and support young people. Greater interinstitutional coordination of policy and programmes aimed at improving the overall situation of young people in a multifaceted approach (education, health, employment, welfare, housing, and civic participation) is required.
The Youth Guarantee is strongly anchored in the EU funding instruments such as the Instrument for Pre-accession Assistance (IPA) at country and regional levels which covers all youth policy (education and training, employment, health or culture). Promoting youth mobility for study, experience or peer exchange via Erasmus+ - in which ETF partner countries are eligible to participate - has proved successful in building up young people’s chances of finding a job, learning new skills and enhancing cross-country youth cooperation.
Skills for crafts: getting young people on board
The stereotype of artisans being old people, staunchly defending traditional crafts from the onslaught of modern production technologies is far from the truth at Homo Faber, the Michelangelo Foundation’s guide to the best of European crafts.
The ETF has partnered with Michelangelo Foundation for Creativity and Craftsmanship, a Swiss-based NGO studying and promoting excellence in crafts. It is best known for its Homo Faber Guide and the related annual master crafts showcase event in Venice which was attended by master crafts people from ETF partner countries at the 2022 exhibit in Venice (Read more).
One of the first sights after entering the 2022 exhibition on San Giorgio Island in Venice is a glass-caged 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO. And one of the first live performing craftsmen who greets you is Swiss skateboard maker Laurent Golay. But it doesn’t stop there. The omnipresent hosts and hostesses of the event are its ‘young ambassadors’, themselves deftly defying the dusty image of crafts and artisanry.
We found and had a chat with two of them about the importance of traditions for young people and making crafts cool again.
Melina Khater is a young Lebanese student who left the country right after the harbour explosions of 2020 blew a hole into the capital, Beirut. She moved to Brussels where she studies architecture and urbanism. Melina is originally from the Bekaa Valley, where crafts still thrive.
“My grandmother was a seamstress who had learned the trade from her mother. She taught my own mother to do things by hand and my mother taught me. I still love to do everything with my hands,” said Melinda.
“I moved because I could not recognise myself in Lebanon any longer. I went to a school that was all about art and architecture, but it had lost the cultural connection. It was all so technical – I could not use my skills and creativity.”
“Studying architecture opened many roads for me but my priority has always been to keep the connection with my country. At some point I will always go back to using my hands.”
Crafts is not usually one of the things young people are most interested in. Melina thinks there’s much room for improvement here.
“A lot of people don’t understand the importance of arts and craftmanship, but it is all around us. Almost everything you see is related to crafts: clothes, shoes – even the worst of the fast fashion industry takes its inspiration from crafts. We don’t recognise a lot of this in our generation and this is so sad.”
Melina thinks it is important to reconnect young people to crafts, and not just so that they can learn a trade.
“We’re living a very fast life and we are losing the connection with our heritage. Crafts can help us bring the past back into our future.”
Melina believes the best way to pique young people’s interest in crafts again is to provide more visible platforms for artisans to promote their trades.
“In Beirut, we now have the Souk El Tayeb market, where people from the villages come to sell their goods. It started as a food market, but then they launched a project where, every Saturday, they’d bring old Lebanese women to promote their craftmanship. Now a Souk el Tayeb will open in Paris!”
“But I still don't think it is enough. There are so many people out there that you do not see or notice!”
Defne Ar is originally from Turkey but she also studied abroad – in Spain, Japan and now Italy. With a travelling bag full of degrees and five languages at her disposal, she makes some comparisons between the countries she has seen.
“Of course my fellow art students in Turkey were interested in crafts, but they stood out among the young generation,” said Defne. “In Japan, there was a much broader interest in crafts from the younger generation.”
While Defne cannot say whether the education system in Japan had something to do with that, she has a feeling that young people in Japan generally remain closer to their own cultural heritage.
“But tourism plays a role too. Crafts are promoted as an essential part of culture and religion in Japan, almost like a form of branding.”
Defne, like Melina, places the importance of craft skills survival firmly in the domain of cultural identity.
“It is very important to sustain the crafts of a country – the handmade objects. Right now, every day, we lose techniques that are unique in a specific region somewhere in the world. In all countries specific types of craft are dying because nobody is learning them.”
She believes two things could be done by schools to alleviate the situation.
“There should be programmes for people who want to learn from the masters.”
As an example, Defne gives a TV programme that was broadcast a few years ago about a specific kind of furniture wood carving that only one person still had the technical skills to perform. They mobilised students so that the elderly man could transfer his skills.
“But there should also be more education on heritage skills, particularly for young people. We should teach them more than the very general things we teach them today.”
“It worked that way for me, and I am grateful for that. When I was 10 years old, we went on a compulsory trip to Istanbul to learn its history from the Byzantine to the Ottoman periods. That started my interest in arts. I wanted to study more about artistry and be an artist myself.”
“For young people, being exposed to the beauty of crafts at an early age will increase their engagement and their desire to protect their heritage.”
EU and African Union united in unleashing youth potential
In 2020, young people between the ages of 15 and 24 constituted 20% (226 million) of sub-Saharan Africa’s total population (1.13 billion). The youth population in sub-Saharan Africa is projected to rise to 293 million by 2030 and to reach 413 million by 2050. Many young people are not in education, employment or training (NEET). Their socioeconomic integration into rapidly changing societies is one of the biggest challenges on the African continent.
The ETF supports European Union cooperation with the African Union on skills development through engagement in the quality assurance and development of vocational schools and the development of an African Continental Qualifications Framework (ACQF). Cooperation with Africa is continuously growing and most recently we have had the pleasure to nominate two finalists from Kenya and Nigeria for the ETF Green Skills Award 2022. Be sure to cast your vote!
Quality development of vocational schools
An ETF study undertaken on behalf of the European Commission’s Directorate-General for International Partnerships (DG INTPA) examined data from 26 vocational schools from 14 sub-Saharan African countries to give a snapshot of good practice, and inform the development and planning of schools and education and training systems. With the dedication and participation of partners and schools, the research identifies barriers and enablers that explain the schools’ level of development. The self-assessment survey was launched with the help of organisations and projects supporting schools in the region: the EU vocational education and training (VET) Toolbox and Archipelago projects, Enabel (Belgium), GIZ (Germany), LuxDev (Luxembourg), the Agence française de développement (France) and Humana.
The final report was presented at the European Africa Business Forum in February 2022 in the lead up to the EU-Africa Business Summit in June 2022, a key event of public-private dialogue between the EU and Africa at continental level to enhance sustainable economic cooperation. The ETF report offers five recommendations for policymakers that indicate how high quality vocational education can be nurtured throughout sub-Saharan Africa:
encourage and support schools to disseminate excellence;
help to establish leading schools for the digitalisation of vocational education and training;
help to strengthen collaboration and cooperation with industry and new businesses;
help to build capacities for successful devolution of VET governance;
Provide training and support to help schools become green.
The report is available on the ETF’s Open Space in English and French.
In 2020 the ETF undertook a mapping of 13 African National Qualification Frameworks (NQFs) which is currently being followed up with further conceptual and technical development of the African Continental Qualifications Framework. The mapping is available at: African Continental Qualifications Framework (ACQF) mapping study reports | AUDA-NEPAD
4 facts on young people and skills in ETF partner countries
Approximately one out of every four young people in the ETF partner countries in the EU’s neighbourhood are not in education, training or employment (NEET) and women are disproportionately represented.
Mutually reinforcing education, skills and employment policies are needed to support young people, especially those already at risk of marginalisation, to ensure they can benefit from the digital and green transitions.
Closer collaboration between schools and the business sector helps improve the relevance of skills and the quality of internships and apprenticeships. Securing investment for business can stop brain drain and create better jobs.
Africa has the youngest population in the world and the fastest growing. The ETF is supporting EU cooperation with the African Union on skills development by enhancing the quality of vocational schools and the development of an African Continental Qualifications Framework (ACQF).
Vote for the ETF Green Skills Award 2022
Ten stories have been selected for the final round of the ETF reward. Help us choose the winner! Details of the finalists and where to vote can be found here. You can vote until 23.59 CET on 5 June 2022.
The three winners of the Green Skills Award 2022 will be announced on 9 June 2022.
ETF podcast #17 - Re(construction) of Ukraine: green and digital
In this episode we talk to Iryna Shumik from the Ministry of Education and Science of Ukraine and to Olena Bekh, Human Capital Development Expert from the European Training Foundation.
The Russian invasion of Ukraine that started on 24 February 2022 has, according to the UN, affected the lives and wellbeing of more than 5.7 million school-aged children. The deadly armed conflict has resulted in severe problems for access to schooling and education.
At the end of April, President Zelensky formed the National Council for the Reconstruction of Ukraine, giving policymakers a clear signal to look ahead to the rebuilding of everything that has been destroyed during the military activities, including all education and training facilities.
So what could the green (re)construction of education and training actually look like in Ukraine in the coming months and years? Listen here to our latest podcast.
Embracing the digital age: The present and future of work for young people in the Western Balkans, 7 June
This online event will examine new forms of employment, including work via online platforms and the opportunities that this can bring to young people today.
It will also be the opportunity to present a new ETF study conducted in six Western Balkan countries, which follows on from similar work done last year in the Eastern Partnership countries (read more)
Conference of the DANUBE Region Strategy: People and Skills, 9 June
The 10th Stakeholder Conference of Pillar 9 of the Danube Strategy will take place in June in Vienna. The focus of the event will be "Young People in Times of Crisis: Building Responsive Education, Training and Labour Market Systems in the Danube Region".
The ETF partner countries Bosnia and Herzegovina, Moldova, Montenegro, Serbia and Ukraine are situated in the Danube Region and feature within the strategy, to which ETF also provides support.
ETF Skills Lab Network of Experts, 13-14 June
The firstlive event of the ETF Skills Lab Network of Experts, will take place in Turin on 13-14 June 2022. The event will focus on the future of work, skills anticipation and matching, and skills demand analysis. It will bring together participants from ETF partner countries and ETF and other international experts who will mentor and guide teams to develop the best solutions to specific challenges in today's labour market. More information is available from the dedicated page on the ETF's Open Space