Lifelong learning for a more inclusive Europe: young adults between Community policies and national practices

On 14th June 2019 the ENLIVEN research team held a national dissemination seminar in Italy, hosted by the Representation of the European Commission, where the main project outcomes were presented. Given the participation of academics, policy makers, students, young workers, the event was also an opportunity to interrogate national adult education policies more broadly, and particularly about the translation of European strategies into concrete actions in the national context, the coordination mechanisms between the different levels involved and the extent the European strategies and related practices promote the inclusion of the most vulnerable people and social cohesion.

During the morning, Marcella Milana (National Manager of the ENLIVEN project), Sandra Vatrella and Francesca Rapanà from the Italian ENLIVEN team presented selected outcomes of the project focusing on Work Package 3 (The role of European Union Governance in Adult Learning Policy) and Work Package 5 (The organisational Structure of Early Careers – HRM & Innovation), while academics, young people and Lifelong Learning experts shared some reflections and insights about the national implementation of adult education policies. Further, Andrea Simoncini (National Agency of Active Labour Market Policies – ANPAL), Enrico Mazzo (Students’ Union) and Lorenza Venturi (EPALE – Italy) dedicated attention, in their presentations, on the need for lifewide learning to contrast new educational poverties, the difficulties experienced by university graduates to enter the labor market, and the work of the EPALE Observatory on inclusion and social cohesion.

In the afternoon a round table debated the “invisible barriers” to learning that are too often ignored or not adequately taken into account by policies, and which risk thwarting the public interventions. Eleonora Pietrogrande (Irecoop Veneto), Laura Formenti (Italian University Network For Lifelong Learning – RUIAP), Enrico Mazzo (Students’ Union) and Claudio Vitali (National Coordinator of EU Agenda) offered their contributions and Marcella Milana and Fabio Roma (ANPAL) facilitated the dialogue with the audience.

Rome disseminationDuring the roundtable emerged that invisible barriers to lifelong learning have been found to persist, involving wider social groups and individuals than are generally the subject of targeted policies and interventions and can be observed both at the level of individuals and social groups (what limits individual participation in existing learning opportunities), and at structural level (what limits both the implementation and effectiveness of learning opportunities). Both are often of a cumulative nature (several types of barriers co-exist): barriers limiting individual participation include, for example, linguistic, digital and biographical barriers; barriers limiting the implementation and effectiveness of interventions cover historical-cultural and legislative-administrative barriers. These include also the not always adequate preparation of professionals called upon to work in support of learning processes in different educational and professional contexts, in the light of the growing interactions between educational-training policy interventions and active labor market policies.

Marcella Milana concluded the event by recapping what emerged from the day discussions that could be seen as tentative answers to the questions that framed the event which emphasized the need to develop more effective strategies to reach those who, in Italy, are still excluded from public interventions. At present, both the use of resources and the commitment of a number of actors to support the promotion of the inclusion of the most vulnerable groups are evident, but with a greater focus on some populations and social groups (e.g. young people, the unemployed) at the expense of others (e.g. adults, elderly, migrants), and with an overestimation of the needs of the market, compared to the equally important need to strengthen social cohesion and civic coexistence in Italy, as well as the role that lifelong learning has and can have to this end.