First meeting of the ENLIVEN’s National Youth Panel for Italy

With youth, for youth:

Youth training and inclusion into the job market

21 September 2017

On 21st September 2017, the Italian team of the ENLIVEN project held the first meeting of the ENLIVEN’s National Youth Panel for Italy. Representatives of four organizations representing students, trades, civil society and local authorities attended the meeting. Representatives of two additional civil society organisations were unfortunately unable to attend due to unforeseeable circumstances.

The participants’ common concern is to ensure that the younger generation can have decent access to the world of work in full respect of their economic and social rights.

The scope of this first meeting was to confront different perspectives and to find a common language among different organisations that care about the future of the younger generation.

After a round of participants’ presentation the morning, there was a sharing of knowledge on various initiatives that have been carried out to promote young people’s access to training and the job market. For instance, youth employment has been for years at the center of the employee organisation represented in the panel, which has launched years ago a fund (to which the top management contributes with 4% of its salary, and employees on duty with a day of holiday or leave) with the scope of curbing precariousness in its own sector of activity, by supporting enterprises wishing to undergo stable contracts or to stabilise young workers in the sector. From 2014 to 2017, the fund has led to the assumption or stabilisation of more than 16,000 young people.

The panel also debated over obstacles that hamper a full access to training and the labour market of young adults. For instance, in the opinion of some of attendees, several barriers limit the chances for young people to access or complete tertiary education successfully at university level. These barriers include scarce resources devoted to scholarships and student housing and, even more, limitations to first year intake imposed on some bachelor degree programmes. Another area of ​​concern debated by the attendees is the fighting against discrimination, which may limit the right to study and/or work, as in the case of those related to young people’s sexual identity or migration background.

An additional issue being addressed concerns the relationship between the outcomes of academic research and the policy making process, which is not necessarily linear and rational. As one participant argued and emphasised, evidence emerging from the latest OECD Education at Glance report does not lead to appropriate initiatives by political decision-makers. Furthermore, it was noted that, at the political level, data was selected and often detached from the context in order to support certain positions or to propose simple solutions that could not address complex issues effectively.In light of the above discussion, two potential areas of collaboration within the National Youth Panel were identified:

  1. To ensure that research data “speaks” meaningfully to different audiences, and support the need for knowledge that different organisations may have to operate in their respective fields of action.
  2. To restore the complexity of reality in phenomena often reduced by statistical data. For instance, the only number of people participating in training is insufficient to describe the phenomena. It is equally important to have knowledge on the infrastructure that supports or hampers access to training.

Accordingly, the collaboration between universities and organisations is valuable. Each party has its own specificity – whereas universities have “explicit” knowledge grounded in scientific research, organisations possess “tacit” knowledge developed through practices, which is equally important but usually receive less recognition. This kind of collaboration, as some experiences have shown, may increase the chance of influencing practices and policies (Schucksmith, 2016).

In the afternoon, the National Youth Panel met with representatives of a public institution that coordinates employment policies for job seekers and the relocation of the unemployed at national level.

The exchange of ideas in the morning continued into the afternoon, enriched by further contributions from new attendees who have years of experience in research and consultancy work on issues of continuing education and the entry into the labour market.

By the end of the day, the National Youth Panel of Italy and the representatives of the public institution agreed on “invisible” barriers, which are not detected but have a decisive impact on youth’s access to training and the labour market, as a focal point of mutual interest. Each of the organisations being represented has knowledge about some of these barriers, but a whole picture is missing. Therefore, the National Youth Panel foresaw a possibility to meet again in about six months to deepen discussion on this subject matter, with each of the organisations contributing knowledge from its vantage point. Representatives from the public institution willing to continue dialogues with the National Youth Panel could also bring their contribution.