Among young people are potential philosophers, artists, writers, entrepreneurs, craftsmen, and women – people who will create, who will constitute, who will continue Europe’s culturally rich and unique traditions. Although support is needed in the current situation, it is also an investment in Europe’s human and cultural capital. The argument, therefore, is not about changing young people because their alleged lacking is the cause of unemployment. Instead, the emphasis is on their potential contribution to improvements in social and economic conditions.
Non-formal education and learning have an important role to play in responding to youth unemployment. This is because it supports development by helping to transform young peoples’ potential, creativity, talents, initiative and social responsibility, through the acquisition of related knowledge, skills, attitudes, and values. It is often community-based and outside of formal institutional contexts. Youth work can play a key role in reaching out to all young people. For those with fewer opportunities, youth work supports re-integration, through its close and informal contacts with young people, youth-friendly outreach and ability to instill trust in young people to get in touch with authorities. It provides individual support for occupational orientation and counseling, tailored to the particular challenges of different young people, in an informal environment.
There is a need to promote the validation of learning outcomes gained in non-formal learning and youth work in a vocabulary that is understandable to educators and employers. If you want to stay “young” and innovative, you have no choice but to immerse yourself in the emerging tools of the current and next generation. You MUST stay current, as it is illusionary to imagine being innovative without being current. Also, realize that the generational shifts are much shorter than they were in the past. If you were an innovative Internet company five short years ago, you might have learned about SEM and SEO. Most of the newly disruptive companies are no longer using these tools as paths to success – they have moved on to social/viral techniques. The game keeps changing, and if you are not “all-in” in terms of learning what’s new, then you may be falling rapidly behind.
Evidence about the impact of non-formal and informal learning is developing. In January 2014 the European Commission published Working with young people: the value of youth work in the EU, which mapped different youth work activities and their value for young people in the EU. More studies of this quality are needed. The 2012 report Youth Work: A Systematic ‘Map’ of the Research Literature provides a model but there is a need to access research published in a range of languages.
Young people have to be set on a long-term, sustainable pathway with quality, stable and sustainable employment. The involvement of a range of stakeholders in the design and delivery of youth employment measures is therefore essential. Youth employment measures should be client-centered, catering for different pathways, for example from mainstream learning to tailored, supported learning. Successful policies are innovative, introducing new ways of reaching out to their target groups.
Youth work can also play an important role in preventing drop-out and in supporting reintegration. Some forms of youth work already deliver individual support on occupational orientation and counseling, tailored to the particular challenges of different young people. Such support should be linked to activities by employment services and other partners involved in supporting young people. An active policy response is required across sectors.