Ideathon: Young European Ambassadors

Young European Ambassadors kick-start the ETF’s Year of Skills ideathons

Against the backdrop of the European Year of Skills, a group of 60 Young European Ambassadors met in Brussels on 4 May 2023. In welcoming them, Mathieu Bousquet, Acting Director for Thematic Support, Coordination of Policy and Financial Instruments at the European Commission’s DG for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Negotiations highlighted that this special year would shine the spotlight on the critical role of skills in underpinning the transition to a greener, more digital and inclusive future for everyone.

The event presented a unique opportunity for the ETF to host its first Year of Skills ideathon, an opportunity to discuss some of the most challenging obstacles to green and digital skills acquisition and development, seen from the viewpoint of young people.

Young people aged between 15 and 24 account for up to 35% of the working-age population in many of the EU’s neighbouring countries, and Bousquet highlighted some of the challenges they face, including ‘high unemployment, inactive labour markets, and education systems that do not respond to labour market requirements’.

‘You are the future leaders and changemakers,’ Bousquet declared.

The Young European Ambassadors initiative, which aims to strengthen relations and build connections between the EU and young people across the EU’s neighbouring regions, is a dynamic and vibrant network with communication and friendship at its core. 

Our idea behind the ideathon

The ideathon has provided an opportunity to hear the voices and opinions of young people, and gain an invaluable insight into what ‘skills’ means for them and how skills can be learnt.

Institutions need to provide lifelong learning systems that equip people with the knowledge and competences they need for successful careers and rewarding lives in a greener and more digital future. Supporting people on their journey to gaining the skills that are relevant for the future – this is what we strive for.

The language of skills

Following a group discussion on some of the green and digital jobs that are gaining importance in their countries (online jobs in particular), the young ambassadors were invited to name the skills they considered particularly important for the future. Soft skills – such as empathy, communication and collaboration – were among the top answers.

Divided into cross-country working groups, the young ambassadors had the opportunity to further explore the similarities and differences in approaches to skills tuition in their countries, and to identify how green and digital skills are being taught as well as the skills that are needed but not currently addressed. 

The proposals

The brainstorm produced impressive and fascinating results. 

  • Communication skills for the digital future should a priority. Workshops and debating societies should be organised and soft skills introduced into school curricula to gain these competences (group of young ambassadors from Tunisia, Georgia and Jordan, among other countries).
  • Involving the private sector and developing ‘green hubs’ could help accelerate the greening of curricula, which would lead to greater job opportunities in the green economy (groups with ambassadors from Poland, Ukraine and Palestine*, among others).
  • Digital education for all should be prioritised to increase access to the global workplace (groups including participants from Algeria and Egypt).

Looking ahead

Young ambassadors believe that skills learning currently takes place mostly in vocational training and online settings, rather than school and university. Yet many of their proposals foresee formal education still playing an important role in providing the key skills for the future, as long as curricula are updated with the relevant green and digital knowledge.

‘This was a brilliant opportunity for us to involve a very motivated and dynamic group of young people in some of the complex decisions facing educators today. Education systems need to recognise younger generations’ unique perspective if they are to provide them with the skills they need to succeed,’ Santucci says.

Other ideathons are to be held later in the year; all the views and thoughts that will be generated and gathered will feed into ETF action plans to maximise the impact of the European Year of Skills for citizens across the EU’s neighbouring regions.

Read the full article on ETF Open Space.

*This designation shall not be construed as recognition of a State of Palestine and is without prejudice to the individual position of the Member States on this issue.