The youth conference is part of the multilateral cooperation project "transitions. Successful Transitions to Training and Employment", with which Germany, Finland, France, and Luxembourg have initiated peer-learning processes that can be utilized in the development of national and European youth policy.
For the young people, this was not their first experience of cross-border mobility. They have already been deeply involved in international youth projects dealing with the subject of transitions, a subject they know very well, due to their own individual living conditions: some of the participants come from socially deprived families and their educational opportunities are poor. Some have dropped out of school and others have successfully completed their professional training but, because of the economic crisis, have little chance of finding work in their country.
Peer learning and intercultural experiences
The youth conference gave the young participants an opportunity to gain even deeper insights by sharing experiences from previous youth exchanges. "I was in Italy for a youth exchange and met people who were totally different to me, but they still had similar problems. They said, 'I can do it!' That spurred me on and I now believe in myself and am in vocational training," says Filipe from Portugal. The 19-year-old lives with his unemployed father and three siblings in a troubled neighbourhood near Lisbon and, when he had finished school, used to hang out aimlessly in the streets. The local youth centre put him in touch with "ManuFUNtory", an exchange project with young people from five nations who, amongst other activities, spent some days working in various local skilled trades. This was the first time that Filipe had his skills and abilities appreciated - despite the language barriers.
Mobility for all
During discussions with representatives of youth policy and child and youth services from France, Germany, and Luxembourg, the young people stressed how important it is for their own personal development to be able to experience international mobility. They would also welcome better information about relevant funding programmes. Thomas Thomer, sub-department head at the Federal Ministry of Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth, emphasized that mobility programmes must be open to all young people, and most especially to young people with special educational needs. And Albert from Spain emphatically stated: "Do not forget the young people in Europe. Make sure that everyone is included, even the ones that are less smart." Albert, a skilled gardener, has been job-hunting for four years, works as a volunteer for a number of organisations and now hopes for a second chance through a German-based European voluntary service.
Tailor-made information and cross-sectoral cooperation
At a local level, young people in the transition phase often find no suitable information and advisory service. "We need more youth centres that can support young people like us in our search for job training opportunities," said Seyitan from Sinzig in Germany. He said that job centres had not been the right point of contact for him. The local drop-in youth centre "Haus der offenen Tür Sinzig" had been his first experience of anyone actually listening to him and helping him to develop a perspective for his professional future. A close cooperation between school, non-formal education, and the local business community can also be helpful. "I think it's brilliant that we have so much time in school to discuss our strengths and weaknesses with our teachers, that we can talk about our future, and that many companies are invited so that we can ask them questions," said Sarah. She attends the 9th grade at the "Integrative Gemeinschaftsschule" (an integrated school similar to a comprehensive school) in Badenstedt, a problem district in Hannover, and participates in the German-Spanish pilot project "JobScouts on Tour" devised by her school and the "Verein Niedersächsischer Bildungsinitiativen e.V.", the Association of Further Education Initiatives of Lower Saxony. Gabriella would love to see such cooperation projects in her native Hungary. Her school's timetable includes no time at all for professional orientation, state-run information centres are only just being set up, and non-governmental organisations have hardly any money to spend on information material appropriate to this target group, the 24-year-old says.
Personal initiative and participation
This much was made clear at the conference: even if their transition situations are different, young people have similar visions for their future. They would like a meaningful job with adequate pay, and they would like to have time for their families, friends, and other people. Using their own initiative, being creative and open in their job search - this is what's important for many young people. Malika Kacimi of the French Ministry of Youth and Sports' Youth Fund and Karine Brard-Guillet of the Missions Locales National Council in France picked up on this and encouraged the young people to unite and become active participants in political debates, as this was the only way to effect lasting change in the difficulties encountered by young people, and to ensure that the change would be what young people wanted. And Nathalie Schirtz, head of "Transitions" at Service National de la Jeunesse (the National Agency for Youth) in Luxemburg, called on the participants to be "ambassadors for youth and for exchange programmes, share your positive experiences with other young people!"
Successful cooperation project
The youth conference brought to its conclusion a successful multilateral cooperation project conducted since 2012 by IJAB on behalf of the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth. Project "transitions" cooperation partners are the ministries responsible for youth in France and Finland, and the National Agency for Youth in Luxemburg. Focusing on a subject of current importance to many European countries, the participating parties initiated peer-learning processes in four expert exchange programmes and a study visit, each programme dealing with a different key issue. The overall goal was to further develop individual support and advice for young people during the transition from school to training and employment, and in doing so, to contribute to the development of European youth policy. In Germany, a national expert group discussed and reflected upon the knowledge gained during the project. The outcome of these discussions can be used for shaping German youth policy and child and youth services.
More information on Project "transitions" at www.ijab.de/transitions