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What is the role of youth work in relation to employability?

cropped-228h1.jpgWhile speaking about the role of youth work in employability it is interesting to see why we relate both terms together…

First question coming into mind is “What youth work is?” Going through various official EU documents, studies and publications on the subject, the following lines could be drawn, in order to bring a general idea of the term.

Youth work is usually thought of as a typical form of non-formal learning. The educational aims of youth work are broad rather than specific, they are grounded in responses to the needs, cultures and interests of the young people rather than being pre-set. The emphasis is on the process instead of the learning outcomes (Ord 2014). Youth work can be seen as an alternative to the education that takes place usually outside of formal educational system. Youth work is not about producing learning results, it is more about providing an environment where communication and sharing of ideas goes on.

EVS can be seen as a typical example of youth work, since one of the necessary conditions and most important elements so that it happens is the voluntary participation of the young people. Voluntary participation is among the factors that define any form of non-formal learning. When young people engage deliberately in activities, their motivation for learning is intrinsic. This also means that the activities are meaningful and important for the young people. It is all about cooperation and working together. In this way, youth work combines recreation, social fellowship and education. Finally, youth work recognises the impact of cultures on young people as an important aspect of contemporary society, it develops methods through which young people can engage in cultural activities and, if necessary, they can question cultural norms and expectations (Kiilakoski 2015). Nevertheless, the educative aspect is one of the core elements of youth work.

On the other hand, in order to understand how youth work relates to employability, it is necessary to have a general perspective on which kind of employability challenges the young people often meet. Therefore, various reports and documents were studied so to be able to bring both concepts together.

Going through a document called “Youth Work: “Enhancing Youth Employability?”, published by Institute MOVIT, Ljubljana, Slovenia with the support of the EC, the following findings appear. First of all, transition from education to the labour market is a very important phase in the life of every young person, as it represents the transition from childhood to adulthood, from economic and social dependence (on parents) to independence, and it is therefore of major importance for the autonomy of the young individual (Vertot 2009, 10).

In addition, when entering the labour market, youth face similar obstacles in most of the EU countries.

  1. Information about the labour market is often insufficient and young people don’t receive enough guidance and support during this very important stage of their lives.
  2. Internships are often not paid well enough and sometimes don’t even involve a learning experience. In many countries, internships act as a replacement for youth jobs.
  3. There is a lack of financial support and mentoring schemes to encourage entrepreneurship and self-employment among youth.
  4. Non-formal learning and competences gained through extracurricular activities and youth-work are not recognized. This makes it more difficult for youth to present their achievements when entering the labour market.
  5. The role of youth work is very often not recognized by the authorities and youth are excluded from the social dialogue (Adapted from: Belgian Presidency 2010; Spanish Presidency 2010; Hungarian Presidency 2011).

Another common issue that the document has analysed is that many young people remain also underemployed. It appears that for the youth it is more and more difficult to get a decent job and satisfactory working conditions. Finding a job position that matches young people’s education level and field of studies remains the biggest problem and many of them work in unstable and unbearable working conditions (ILO 2011).

Moreover, statistics show that increasing numbers of youth are working in non-standard employment, which has little to no job security, no social security, no health protection and safety at work, no trade union representation and is accompanied by low or even uncertain wages (European Metalworkers’ Federation). Such employment is referred to as precarious employment and is, unfortunately, becoming an everyday reality for many young people all over Europe and the world.

Reading further the stated document the following conclusions regarding this topic were found.

Through youth work and in youth organizations, young people gain valuable non-formal education and become active citizens. This integrates them into society (with major effects especially on vulnerable groups), and helps them perform better in everyday life. Youth work gives added value to young people and equips them with competences that help them in their career life; either when searching for employment or in performing better at work later on. Besides raising their employability, it allows young people to become more confident about their achieved work and voice their competences easier. Competences gained through youth work differ from one individual to another, but quite often they include most key competences: (1) communication in the mother tongue and very often also (2) communication in foreign languages, (3) acquisition of social and civic competences, (4) cultural awareness and expression, (5) learning to learn, (6) acquiring a sense of initiative and entrepreneurship, and last but not least (7) mathematical and (8) digital competences. Key competences are those “which all individuals need for personal fulfilment and development, active citizenship, social inclusion and employment” (European Commission 2007).

Being aware of all those matters we could come to the conclusion that in any way, youth work is a positive factor for stimulating youth employability. Considering the fact that competences should be better recognized in order to further motivate young people to engage in youth work and non-formal educational activities, many associations operate in the field, striving to bring innovative elements and solutions on how it should be done.

The project OVPELO, to which this blog is referred is exactly working in this field and therefore, has already produced some interesting results in terms of solutions for working towards better recognition of employability competences gained through youth work and mainly through EVS experience.

So, curious readers can already check out the new platform  http://www.volunteersemployability.info, which contains the portfolio for assessment of employability skills and therefore can try to get their own perspective on how youth work relates to employability! Good luck!!

BLOG OVPELO Article done my YouNet

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Learning in EVS

ovpeloblogDuring many years of our life, we learn within the world of formal education: in primary school, high school or university. The education system decides what you have to learn, how you have to learn it, and evaluates whether you have learned it or not. In the end, you receive a certificate that validates your learning. Within the EVS experience, the volunteer will go through a non-formal learning process. There won’ t be any teacher, just some accompanying person or a person that will give him support during the process. The learning adapts to his own interests, since he will participate in the planning, organisation and evaluation of the process. As through our entire life, informal learning is also present during the EVS experience. This learning is not structured or planned, it takes place unintentionally within his environment and while relating with other persons: during a conversation, while having a cup of coffee, while doing your grocery in the supermarket, or just walking through the streets of a different country, while watching a movie, through media…..

During his EVS, he has the control over how he live this experience; it’s not about things “happening”, it is about things “that you make happen”… The same applies for the learning outcomes within your EVS: a step further that you can take if you feel like doing it. It consists in learning to analyse and to set his own learning goals, reflecting over his learning process and evaluate if he are meeting your goals and to which extent.

He may learn from the activities that he carry out within the organisation but also during his free time… During his EVS, he is the one to look for your own learning opportunities! However, he dosen’ t have to do it on his own, he can count on the support of other colleagues, his mentor or other persons from his organisation… but remember, the most important thing is his personal interest and his own motivation.

What the volunteer in the end should learn and develop, are summary in the famous 8 key competences:

  • communication in the mother tongue, which is the ability to express and interpret concepts, thoughts, feelings, facts and opinions in both oral and written form (listening, speaking, reading and writing) and to interact linguistically in an appropriate and creative way in a full range of societal and cultural contexts;
  • communication in foreign languages, which involves, in addition to the main skill dimensions of communication in the mother tongue, mediation and intercultural understanding. The level of proficiency depends on several factors and the capacity for listening, speaking, reading and writing;
  • mathematical competence and basic competences in science and technology. Mathematical competence is the ability to develop and apply mathematical thinking in order to solve a range of problems in everyday situations, with the emphasis being placed on process, activity and knowledge. Basic competences in science and technology refer to the mastery, use and application of knowledge and methodologies that explain the natural world. These involve an understanding of the changes caused by human activity and the responsibility of each individual as a citizen;
  • digital competenceinvolves the confident and critical use of information society technology (IST) and thus basic skills in information and communication technology (ICT);
  • learning to learnis related to learning, the ability to pursue and organise one’s own learning, either individually or in groups, in accordance with one’s own needs, and awareness of methods and opportunities;
  • social and civic competences. Social competence refers to personal, interpersonal and intercultural competence and all forms of behaviour that equip individuals to participate in an effective and constructive way in social and working life. It is linked to personal and social well-being. An understanding of codes of conduct and customs in the different environments in which individuals operate is essential. Civic competence, and particularly knowledge of social and political concepts and structures (democracy, justice, equality, citizenship and civil rights), equips individuals to engage in active and democratic participation;
  • sense of initiative and entrepreneurshipis the ability to turn ideas into action. It involves creativity, innovation and risk-taking, as well as the ability to plan and manage projects in order to achieve objectives. The individual is aware of the context of his/her work and is able to seize opportunities that arise. It is the foundation for acquiring more specific skills and knowledge needed by those establishing or contributing to social or commercial activity. This should include awareness of ethical values and promote good governance;
  • cultural awareness and expression, which involves appreciation of the importance of the creative expression of ideas, experiences and emotions in a range of media (music, performing arts, literature and the visual arts).

These key competences are all interdependent, and the emphasis in each case is on critical thinking, creativity, initiative, problem solving, risk assessment, decision taking and constructive management of feelings.