The Slovenian Ministry of Labour, Family and Social Affairs, together with the Slovenian Ministry of Education and Sports hosted a Peer Review in Radovljica. The meeting brought together ministry representatives and independent experts from 9 peer countries (Cyprus, Czech Republic, Finland, Germany, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland and Serbia) as well as representatives from DG Employment, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities at the European Commission.
Bringing young people into the labour market is essential for the future of Europe's economy – yet even in good times, youth unemployment tends to remain at relatively high levels in many Member States, thus making it a key item in the policy agenda. The current economic crisis has further reinforced the need to focus on reintegration of unemployed and inactive young people as this group has been hit particularly hard by the economic downturn.
The ‘Project Learning for Young Adults’(PLYA) highlighted by the Host Country is a long-standing programme that focuses on vulnerable young adults who have dropped out of school early because of the varying challenges in their social, cultural and economic environment. As a result of the complex multi-faceted problems faced by this group, alternative pedagogical and counselling methods are employed to re-integrate them into education, training or employment. Various presentations demonstrated that the Slovenian example offers a successful package of measures to help the reintegration of disengaged young people. Its success lies in the provision of an individualised, supportive learning environment and a flexible approach tailored to fit local circumstances and the needs of each young person. The role of the mentor is also a crucial in supporting the individual through this transition.
The main conclusions of discussions have been summarised under the following headings:
- Prevention better than cure: Early intervention is critical to avoid the cumulative development of problems that increase the chance of the young person dropping out. Effective preventative approaches should start in school and address the full set of challenges facing the young person. However, as intervention at this level may not suit every young person, alternative provision such as that offered by the Slovenian programme is also important to support the young person through the re-integration process into education or employment.
- ‘Carrot’ versus ‘Stick’: The voluntary aspect of this programme contributes to building self-discipline and motivation but there is also a need for compulsory elements to help maintain the young person’s engagement (e.g. individual agreement).
- Holistic and person-centred approach: Any successful interventions need to take account of the complex, multi-dimensional issues that result in young people dropping out of school and not engaging in any type of employment or training. One of the strengths of the PLYA is the comprehensive and person-centred approach that supports the young person in all aspects of their reintegration journey with their needs addressed in a holistic manner.
- Greater emphasis on ‘soft’ skills: Improved confidence, self control, communication skills and so on benefit people throughout their life, in their relationships and interactions within their communities. The acquisition of soft skills is empowering for the individual but also vital for their employability. Employers are increasingly looking for these skills and policy is moving towards the accreditation of such skills, including those acquired informally.
- Education versus Labour market focus: It is important to find a balance between education and labour market orientation of this type of programmes to maximise the long-term opportunities of the young person. Programmes should also take into account the local labour market needs. In addition to that contact with the world of work and ‘learning by doing’ can suit those young people who struggled with traditional schooling.
- Inclusive partnership approach: All major stakeholders including the young people, parents, support services/organisations, social partners and schools need to be involved in the design and delivery of any solutions. It is important for the key stakeholders to have common goals and work together. An integrated and strategic approach will maximise synergies and produce sustainable results. A particularly successful feature of PLYA is the close collaboration between the ministries of labour and education.
- Central role of well-qualified mentors: Mentors act as role models, demonstrating what individuals can achieve and supporting them in dealing with the wide range of problems they face. The mutual trust and respect between mentors and young people is an effective way of ensuring the young person’s engagement. Because of their central role, appropriate recruitment methods, skills development and training are essential to support their work. This should include peer learning from other mentors.
- Sustainability: Adequate and reliable funding are particularly important for this type of approach to work, and funding mechanisms need to ensure that NGOs and other smaller organisations who often develop innovative approaches to working with these target groups are able to access sustainable support.
Full report will be published shortly..
Host Country Official Paper
Host Country Discussion Paper
Peer country comment papers from independent experts
Participating independent experts