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Special Report - Jobtown Local Partnership for Youth Employment Opportunities

Edited on

10 February 2015
Read time: 3 minutes

Twice as many young people are without jobs in Europe as in the working population as a whole. Youth unemployment is one of the most important issues facing the EU now and in the future. URBACT project Jobtown, with 11 partners in 9 countries, is exploring ways in which cities can create opportunities for young people. As it has just been approved for its implementation phase, we find out how the project is dealing with this issue and what the situation is in its partner cities.

'Damage reduction' in a bleak situation for young EuropeansEven before the economic crisis hit Europe, youth unemployment was high, driven by structural change and the decline of manufacturing. Now, as recession bites, it seems to be out of control: over 22% of under-25s have no work across Europe as a whole, while in the hardest hit areas such as Greece and Spain, that figure is over 50%. The phenomenon has led to predictions of a "lost generation" of young people who will be "scarred" by the effects of not being able to enter the labour market after education.

Ian Goldring, the Lead Expert of Jobtown URBACT Project, which aims to build local partnerships with employers, doesn't mince his words. "What we are seeing," he says, "is a slow-motion train wreck." He describes the long-term effects of youth unemployment, both for society – the declining dependency ratio for the pensions systems of the future – and for the individuals – a higher likelihood of depression, drug abuse, marital problems and so on. "It's not just a question of hunkering down while the crisis is going on then later things will pick up and that will be that," Ian says. "It's very important to have damage reduction now."

One of the key issues facing Europe

It's a subject of great concern to the European Commission, too. Last July Commissioner László Andor said: "For young Europeans the situation is bleak", adding that in certain member states such as Greece and Spain the picture was "alarming". It is not just those without jobs who cause concern. Even young people who do find work are all too often on short-term contracts and in low-paid jobs with no prospects. They make up the bottom tier in a two-tier labour market.

A project that had to be done

For all these reasons, Ian Goldring says JobTown, which was launched in May 2012 and approved for its implementation phase on 28 January, was a project that had to be done. "The good news is that not all of Europe is in this mess. Large parts of it are, but if you look at the Netherlands or Germany, they have got it together because they have been following a different policy framework."  And he adds "While it's hard to be optimistic about the current situation, I think this is the right project at the right time. Eventually we would like to leave a legacy, an ongoing platform for the partner cities to continue to exchange."

The five objectives for JobTown

The partner cities will work within five subthemes:

  • Developing effective methods of cooperation, including between the public and private sectors
  • Making education and training more responsive to the needs of the labour market
  • Labour market analysis that will detect and forecast trends
  • Support for business creation and development, self-employment and entrepreneurial skills
  • Social innovation and resource management

Jobtown is concentrating on the business side of the youth unemployment problem rather than on the social effects of the subject. It will draw on the lessons from previous and current URBACT projects, in particular from ESIMEC and its work on detecting labour-market needs, and from the current My Generation at Work project.

Creating local employment networks in partner cities

The 11 cities selected as partners represent a wide range of different situations. The Lead Partner is Cesena, in the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy, a once-prosperous town of 98,000, where youth unemployment runs at 35%. Young people often do not have the qualifications needed by the local labour market, and the municipality has been working closely with the region on a wide-ranging reform of the education system.
A different problem faces Kaiserslautern in Germany, where employers are doing their best to attract migrants with the right qualifications to take up jobs.

There are three cities in the Iberian peninsular. Avilés on the north coast of Spain, where traditional shipbuilding has been partially redirected into manufacturing wind turbines, has a youth unemployment rate of over 40%. Gondomar, a suburb of Porto in Portugal, has a high rate of jobless youths with low qualifications, while Aveiro, 60km south of Porto, has a dynamic university but seeks to create a local employment network, linking education with businesses. The largest participant is Rennes, with a population of 400,000 including some 60,000 students. As in much of France there is a long delay in young people joining the labour market, and here 93% of jobs for the under-25s are short-term contracts.

There are two cities in eastern Europe. Kielce, in south-eastern Poland, suffers from poor connectivity, and its young people tend to move to the larger conurbations of Krakow and Warsaw after education. Nagykálló, in eastern Hungary, also suffers from the migration of its young people. It has a substantial Roma presence – about 15% of the population. The town has a good track record of participation in URBACT and other projects, with structural funds put to good use.

New cities join Jobtown URBACT Project

Three cities are joining an URBACT project for the first time. There is Enfield, a borough of Greater London, where riots in August 2011 put youth issues in the spotlight. Also in the UK, east of London, is Thurrock, where the council is working to match the demands of employers in local enterprises such as the country's new largest inland port, and a set-design centre for the Royal Opera House, with the training available to local youngsters. Then there is Latsia, an industrial suburb of Nicosia in Cyprus, suffering from the crisis, but, with an overall unemployment rate of 9%, not as badly as other areas. Its many young graduates and postgraduates are often overqualified for the jobs available.

Next Steps

  • Steering Group kick-off meeting for all the partners hosted by Cesena at the end of March 2013.
  • Transnational Workshop 1 on developing effective models of cooperation by establishing local partnerships for the advancement of youth employment and opportunities. Avilés, June 2013
  • Transnational Workshop 2: how to make education and vocational training responsive to the needs of the local labour market and better prepare graduates for the transition into work. Kaiserslautern, October 2013.
  • Transnational Workshop 3: Matching employment and demand by improving analysis and forecast of labour market needs. Rennes, February 2014.
  • Transnational Workshop 4: “Support for business creation and development, self-employment and acquisition of entrepreneurial skills”. Co-hosted by Thurrock and Enfield, June 2014.
  • Transnational Workshop 5:  Social economy and resource management – social innovation and how to do more for less. Aveiro, October 2014.

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