The European Commission (EC) launched the first European Vocational Skills Week this month between 5 – 9 December. Stakeholders across Europe have been encouraged to organise events to promote vocational education and training (VET) opportunities. Also in European news, the European Parliament signed off the 2017 EU budget on 1 December which promises greater funding for young people and migrants.

The First European Vocational Skills Week

The Vocational Skills Week is a chance for the EC to showcase successful VET initiatives, and more importantly, improve the image and attractiveness of VET to young people. The EC is promoting VET as part of the New Skills Agenda which was unveiled in June 2016. Raising awareness of VET as a career choice that offers good employment quality, salary, career progression and fulfilling skill shortages is one of the 10 key actions proposed by the EC under the Skills Agenda.

The New Skills Agenda for Europe was adopted in June 2016 with the aim of providing skills for Europeans to meet the demands of the labour market now and in the future. It is hoped the initiative will boost employment, growth and competitiveness across Europe and young people are a specific target group of the initiative. With an unemployment rate of 18.4% in the EU for under-25s compared to 8.3% for the general population in October 2016, it is clear that young people require more support.

The transition from education to employment can be difficult. To investigate how public services can ease the transition, ESN hosted in June 2015 the workshop ‘European youth between education and employment - Improving young people's participation in society’. Discussions during the workshop stressed the need for an integrated approach between education, employment and social services to most effectively help young people find work after education.

2017 EU budget

The 2017 EU budget sets spending for 2017 at €157.86 billion, an increase on the €155 billion allocated for 2016.

The budget is a statement of the EU’s priorities for 2017, with young people and migrants at the fore. The Erasmus+ budget has increased by 19% to €2.1 billion and an additional €500 million has been made available for the Youth Employment Initiative. Meanwhile, almost €6 billion has been promised for addressing the pressure of migration, an 11.3% increase on last year.

The greater resources made available to address the migrant crisis will be welcome news for local authorities, who in some parts of Europe are struggling to cope with the extra demands placed on them. ESN has found that providing housing, language training, information and training for staff and specialist services (for children and migrants with mental health problems) were the main challenges facing public social services and would expect these to be priorities for extra funding.

New initiatives such as the European Vocational Skills Week and the announcement of greater funding for youth schemes are important steps in supporting young people. However, the statistics illustrate the scale of the problem. For example, 43.6% of under-25s are unemployed in Spain. ESN advises that coordination between service providers will be essential for helping young people find employment. Likewise, greater resources for addressing the migrant crisis serves as welcome acknowledgement of the severity of the issue.