Hard on the heels of Davos, where the “skills gap” was the subject of several sessions, the European summit on Monday showed that high unemployment is concentrating EU leaders’ minds on improving training for young people – the focus of our forthcoming 2012 Education for All Global Monitoring Report.
Youth unemployment, which is high right across Europe, last week in Spain reached 51.4% among those aged 16 to 24. In Greece the figure is 46.6% and in Portugal it is 30.7%.
While the eurozone crisis dominated headlines about the EU summit, leaders made a point of identifying the “skills mismatch” as one of their top priorities as they battle youth unemployment.
At the same time, Germany’s success in using apprenticeships and other vocational training to boost workers’ skills and economic growth – and lower unemployment – is receiving increasing attention from elsewhere in Europe.
In their statement after the summit, EU leaders listed “Stimulating employment, especially for young people” as their no. 1 priority, underlining that “This means taking concrete actions to overcome ‘the skills mismatch’.” Member states “need to develop and implement comprehensive initiatives on employment, education and skills,” the statement added.
At the national level, the EU leaders said, “the objective should be that within a few months of leaving school, young people receive a good quality offer of employment, continued education, an apprenticeship, or a traineeship.” They also called for “increasing substantially the number of apprenticeships and traineeships” and “making renewed efforts to get early school-leavers into training” – the last point addressing a key focus of the 2012 Global Monitoring Report, which will examine skills strategies aimed at marginalized youth.
The emphasis on traineeships and apprenticeships demonstrates the increasing influence of Germany’s training model, which President Nicolas Sarkozy of France lauded in a televised interview on Sunday evening, in which he outlined measures to increase the proportion of apprentices that French employers are obliged to hire.
Some are recommending that Britain, too, look to the German model. Last week two commentators on British-German ties, David Marsh and Robert Bischof, commented in The Guardian that Britain’s labour market had performed poorly in comparison to Germany’s “modern apprenticeship systems built on a long-term compact between labour and employers.” The authors praise “a strikingly different cultural approach to industrial training,” that takes “a generational approach to assembling skills and technology.”
In the 2012 GMR, we’ll look both at whether the German model is working as well as some claim, and – crucially – consider the question of whether it can work outside Germany. In a future blog post, we plan to outline the key features of the German system, and how it differs from training in other countries.
Photo: Helle Thorning-Schmidt, the Danish prime minister; Herman Van Rompuy, president of the European Council; and Martin Schulz, president of the European Parliament, at the EU summit in Brussels on Monday. (© Council of the European Union)