Stephanie Bindzus

“Social skills are just as important as maths and chemistry”

Young people transitioning from school to vocational training and professional life were the focus of this year’s Parliamentary Evening for International Youth Work, which took place in Berlin on 5 November 2015. Participants at the evening’s discussion forums discussed how young people can benefit from international youth work as they undergo profound changes in their lives, how to achieve more widespread acceptance of non-formal education, and what it would take to enable more youth exchanges.

Caren Marks, Parliamentary State Secretary to the Federal Minister of Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth. BildImage: David Ausserhofer

“Crossing borders: How international youth work helps young people in times of transition” was the title of the IJAB-hosted 7th Parliamentary Evening for International Youth Work in conjunction with JUGEND für Europa, the bilateral youth offices, and coordination offices. Some 170 guests from youth associations and institutions involved in working with young people on the national and international levels convened at the premises of the Permanent Delegation of the State of Saarland to discuss this issue with several members of the Bundestag and the European Parliament.

“Cross-border mobility is an opportunity”

“Cross-border mobility is an opportunity,” said Caren Marks, Parliamentary State Secretary to the Federal Minister of Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth, in her speech. “International youth work teaches skills, promotes exchanges and strengthens personalities,” she added, underscoring the importance of specialised agencies and funding offices for international youth work. In many areas of life, social skills are increasingly in demand along with technical expertise. “Good social skills are just as important as maths, biology and chemistry, because both types of skills shape a person’s character,” said Marks. She emphasised that the Federal Youth Ministry is interested in promoting an international youth dialogue as part of the Youth Strategy, hinting that a “dedicated mobility initiative” may be forthcoming.

Four discussion forums

Guests spoke with MPs Paul Lehrieder (CSU), Marianne Schieder (SPD) and Azize Tank (Linke) about ways to recognise non-formal education, among other matters. This forum was moderated by IJAB Director Marie-Luise Dreber and Hans-Georg Wicke, director of JUGEND für Europa. It quickly became apparent just how multifaceted this subject is upon closer examination and how many obstacles there still are in practice, from the lack of recognition of experts’ professional qualifications and commitment to the inconsistent certification of young people’s acquired skills. Other problems include finding adequate ways to represent knowledge and skills acquired outside of school within the formal system, as well as a lack of appreciation, which is is making it difficult to obtain resources. Obtaining visas and benefits is another issue related to validation and mobility hurdles. While the panellists all agreed on the high value of international youth work, there were different views and ideas on what steps must be taken to improve matters. Proposals included extending BAföG study grants for students who volunteer in international youth work, defining education in a more holistic way, and launching a mobility initiative with clear benchmarks. All participants agreed to continue their joint dialogue on these issues and to design specific proposals for action on the part of the youth organisations. The MPs pledged to reach out to the BDI (Federation of German Industries), requesting it to urge employers to improve their recognition of non-formal education, and to incorporate the suggestions from the forum into the European debate on education. After all, according to a decision of the European Council, the Member States are obliged to introduce a validation scheme for non-formal and informal learning by 2018.
The three other forums addressed issues such as how taking part in an international exchange affects young people’s personal development, how currently underrepresented target groups can be persuaded to take part in international exchanges, and how the value of professional exchange programmes and internships abroad must not be reduced to young people’s employability.

7th Parliamentary Evening for International Youth Work

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