Anna Sophie Hahne (TIHR) and Dr Thomas Spielhofer (TIHR) together with project partners from Portugal (CECOA, CEPCEP, CML, TESE), Italy (CPV), Spain (Fundacion Ronsel) and Germany (ISOB) present how this model was developed and what it aims to achieve and reflect on some of the learning from the pilots to date, involving representatives from the organisations involved in the project.
In 2018, 16.5% of young people aged 20-34 were not in education, employment or training (NEET) across Europe, although there was considerable variation among EU member states. In Germany, for example, the proportion is relatively low at 11.4%; in other European countries, the proportion is much higher, such as 28.9% in Italy. Studies have found that being NEET is associated with numerous negative consequences, both at an individual level but also at a societal level. At the individual level, young people who are NEET are more likely to be socially excluded and exposed to discrimination and poverty. At a social level, it results in additional costs for welfare payments and unused manpower.
There have been numerous reports, strategies and initiatives to try and solve the ‘NEETs problem’ over the last 20 years, but the issue persists. Some countries have tried to resolve it by increasing the number of young people participating in education and training or moving onto higher education, but this can lead to ‘credential inflation’ and ‘over-education’ among the workforce without significantly reducing youth unemployment.
There is general agreement that no one strategy can reduce the number of young people who are NEET – as it does not refer to a heterogeneous group of young people. A previous study in the UK, for example, segmented NEETs into three broad groupings: the ‘open to learning’ NEETs, the ‘sustained NEETs’ and the ‘undecided NEETs. While those in the first group often have relatively minor barriers to participation and generally re-engage even without any significant help, those in the sustained and undecided groups face more significant barriers and need a lot more support to move into and sustain their involvement in education, training or employment.
Against this background, the Erasmus+ project aims to learn from previous initiatives across Europe to find new ways to help young people who are currently NEET by supporting them to overcome the main obstacles from a social inclusion perspective. The Tavistock Institute, together with seven European partners from Portugal, Italy, Spain and Germany, did this by conducting a review of existing good practices in using work-based learning strategies in their countries. This review showed that such strategies are most likely to be successful if they are able to overcome issues of lack of social capital and networks among young people and encourage those providing support to coordinate their activities with other relevant education, training and employment stakeholders. Based on this review, partners developed a social inclusion model to work with NEETs that is currently being piloted in Spain, Italy and Portugal.