How to integrate work and training as a way to improve youth employability and company productivity
Representatives of labour ministries, national training institutes, business organisations, trade unions and civil society in Europe and Latin America and the Caribbean, as well as international organisations, met in Lima to reflect on how to develop inclusive, attractive learning policies for companies and improve youth employability. The seminar was organised by the European Union EUROsociAL+ programme and the EU-LAC Foundation, in collaboration with the Peruvian Ministry of Labour and Employment Promotion with the backing of the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the Inter-American Centre for the Development of Knowledge in Vocational Training (CINTERFOR-ILO).
Prior to the seminar, the EUROsociAL+ Programme and the EU-LAC Foundation issued a call in the European Union, Latin America and the Caribbean, which led to the selection of 13 experiences (from almost 100 submitted) of innovation in education and professional training with company involvement.
During the meeting, the Minister for Labour and Employment Promotion, Sylvia Cáceres Pizarro, said that “public policy responses are needed” to address the problem of youth and informal employment, the latter reaching 72% in Peru, which causes “worker invisibility”, while also leading to lack of protection, a lack of labour rights “and all the resources we can deploy in an effort by different countries to achieve social cohesion”.
Representing the European Union, EU Ambassador to Peru Diego Mellado stressed that the presence of multinationals in the country —which he said already account for half of foreign investment— plus bilateral free trade agreements with social standards, should result in “a market of 510 million European consumers that can have a positive impact on the employability and training of young people”.
The objective of promoting better-paid quality jobsto have an impact on social welfare, is precisely one of the intentions of education and professional training. Juan Manuel Santomé, director of EUROsociAL+, explained that “youth unemployment in this region is three times that of the adult population. One in five young people look for work and don’t find it”, while in the European Union the average is around 15%.
“Among the most successful policies for youth employment are those that combine classroom and on-the-job-training”, with “a real work contract that recognises the rights and duties of young people”, says Santomé. He also argues that “countries that have developed systems that integrate training and work ahave better results in youth employment, the idea being that companies get involved,” participation in which will increase when they realise that these programmes invest in their growth.
And that business fabric is mainly made up of SMEs that “need trained employees who can contribute to their activities, which is where training becomes a tool for strengthening bi-regional competitiveness while allowing social inclusion”, said Paola Amadei, director of the EU-LAC Foundation.
However, there are many challenges for countries and societies in general, in this area since “vocational training has not always been appreciated in Latin America,” says Enrique Deibe, director of the Inter-American Centre for the Development of Knowledge in Vocational Training (ILO/Cinterfor).
In his opinion, “it has not received the recognition it has in Europe, in Germany or Sweden, where vocational training enjoys great prestige”. And he adds that training should be thought of as encouraging employability so that companies “can have more consistent productivity”.
Experiences that combine training and work
Matteo Colombo, researcher at the Adapt Foundation, said that all13 education and professional training experiences selected from among the cases received by the EU-LAC Foundation and the EUROsocial+ programme sought to draw attention to new solutions to tackle youth unemployment and inactivity and the mismatch of skills for the labour market. They were also intended to improve employability, youth employment, social inclusion and development to benefit businesses, young people and the entire communitye.
The viability of apprenticeship models was discussed by David Rosas-Shady from the Inter-American Development Bank. “Very few countries have apprenticeship programmes. Brazil and Colombia have them and have taken some steps. In Peru, only 4% of companies make use of training agreements”, he says.
There are still challenges to deal with in this area. Rosas-Shady points out that programmes can be dependent on the business cycle, which if contract-based may discourage the creation of apprenticeships, as well as other jobs, in an environment where 90% of companies in the region are SMEs and require supported so they can benefit from these programmes.
There are also educational challenges related to labour insertion and the employability of young people in general, as many finish basic education without minimal skills such as mathematics or reading comprehension; or challenges regarding labour legislation to incorporate apprenticeship programmes.
Other possible obstacles arise from widespread difficulty of obtaining reliable information about the labour needs of the production sector, and the need to foster dialogue between companies, unions and authorities, particularly in Latin America.
Collaboration between the state and private enterprise is a key factor in the development of apprenticeship programmes in leading countries in this field, such as Germany. In this regard Michael Axmann, researcher at ILO/CINTERFOR explained that “this is a tripartite issue; employers are responsible, but trade unions are also part of the process”, which is fundamental for quality learning.
Moreover, this element is required to progress towards an improvement in regional productivity, which was stagnant between 1980 and 2010, “when it has grown fourfold in Asia” adds Axmann. It is because of this that “youth unemployment in Latin America —estimated at 18%— is a challenge for us”.
More young people in companies
The seminar aspired to serve as a space to discuss these experiences, while at the same time aiming to advance in the specific issue of company involvement —as part of a logic of benefits and improvements in productivity— in strategies for youth employability based on integration between work (with a formal contract) and training, both in the workplace and in educational centres. The keys to the success of these experiences and transforming them into channels for social inclusion and sustainability, ensuring labour rights, improving youth employability and corporate productivity and competitiveness are among the main questions addressed at this meeting.
The EU-LAC Foundation started work on activities related to Vocational Education and Training in 2013 as instruments to strengthen bi-regional competitiveness, while also enabling social inclusion. Since 2018, the EU-LAC Foundation and the EUROsociAL+ Programme have been working from this perspective with a view to building bridges between governments, civil society and large and small institutions. Both initiatives joined forces to produce a publication that addresses the employability of youth in Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean: How to generate youth employability
See the photo gallery of the event on the EUROsociAL+ Flickr account: https://www.flickr.com/photos/eurosocial-ii/albums/72157707687138435
EUROsociAL+ / Fundación EU-LAC / Ministerio del Trabajo, Perú / UE en Perú