What is the role of the AER network for youth empowerment and employment?
The Assembly of European Regions has a history of working on participation and inclusion and more specifically on youth empowerment. Since its creation in 1985 the network has had youth, lifelong learning and economic development in its core topics. This is how for instance the AER youth work placement programme Eurodyssey was created, the first in Europe.
Mobility & employment
Eurodyssey is AER’s international mobility programme for young people. It is an excellent tool for regions to take action against youth unemployment by providing their young people with a first professional experience in a European region. The Eurodyssey programme offers not only quality and relevant work experience but also an opportunity to learn a new language and discover a new culture, contributing to the development of the European project. Regions are satisfied with the quality of the tool as many of their young people find a job at the end of their placement, or in the months that follow.
Youth in policy making
AER also develops cooperation at policy-making level on Youth, by promoting the implementation of regional youth councils and the development of youth participation in political life. One of the 3 thematic Committees specifically focuses on Youth, Culture & Education and we published a report which highlights regional good practices on youth participation in 2014. We also facilitate the cooperation between Regional Youth Councils via the AER Youth Regional Network.
Youth entrepreneurship to empower youth
AER has a long track record of involving regions in cooperation and mutual learning to support youth entrepreneurship. For instance AER implemented peer reviews in the framework of the PYE project, co-financed by the European Commission through the PROGRESS programme.
The AER Peer Review methodology is based on a multi-level bottom-up approach: it means that PYE involved regional authorities, national and regional stakeholders playing a central role in youth employment as well as young people themselves. The five-day peer review visits focused on 3 structural challenges in the field of youth employment: young people’s preparation for, transition to & stabilisation on the labour market. Each Peer Review visit resulted in a tailor-made List of Recommendations drafted by international experts, which led to 4 Regional Action Plans setting out specific policy recommendations to improve young people’s access to jobs in the region.
AER was also a proud partner of the YES project where partners sought to highlight and encourage entrepreneurship education within the education system. Fostering the attitudes and skills of young people to self-employment, by developing personal qualities – such as creativity, responsibility, risk-taking, problem-solving, team-working – and relevant business competencies on how to create and run an enterprise.
AER organized several citizens for a on the topic of youth entrepreneurship education and 2 Summer academies, the first one in 2008, when youth entrepreneurship was seen mainly as a solution for those youth who were not able to find a job, and the second one last summer, where youth entrepreneurship was no longer a remedy but a positive perspective with an incredible youth empowerment potential.
The AER position on entrepreneurship, “Daring to succeed, entrepreneurship for better growth”, which was adopted in 2014 in Wroclaw (PL), particularly highlights the importance of youth entrepreneurship and also features a series of good practices carried out by the regions on this topic.
Early school leaving: a holistic approach
AER’s engagement on youth policies and youth empowerment logically meant that members got engaged together to combat early school leaving.
Early school leaving (ESL) is a growing severe problem in Europe which has long-term effects both on economic growth, the societal developments and on the individuals. The future of Europe depends on young people’s success both in the working life and in the society. Drop-out is a major obstacle in both respects. The problem is complex and cannot be solved by education providers only. There is a need for effective cross-sectoral cooperation with different stakeholders.
In this context, AER members decided to create a working group to improve policy making through good practice sharing and mutual learning.
Some members of this working group then decided to engage jointly in a European project to study the whole chain of Early School leaving (prevention, intervention and compensation) to be able to develop comprehensive policies.
The JET-CD Erasmus+ project represented an opportunity for regions already involved in exchanging experiences and working together to improve policy making on the topic within the framework of the AER working group on early school drop-outs, to deepen this cooperation in a very concrete way.
The working group followed the progress of the JET-CD project via its regular meetings. The JET-CD outputs were shared both via the meetings and via social media and the AER website. News articles were regularly published on the homepage to ensure wider outreach of the JET-CD findings. Members from the project also benefitted from feedback and experiences from other members in the working group, ensuring a constant flow of knowledge.
Combatting early school leaving aims at empowering youth and allowing them to reclaim their place in society.
Celebrate good practices
Through its award for the Most Youth Friendly European Regions, AER carries out an inventory of good practices and provides them with increased visibility. This award also boosts good practice sharing and transfer: what works well in a region can inspire another region experiencing similar challenges. The exchanges within the network enable stakeholders to better understand the process leading to the successful implementation of a practice. When potential bottlenecks are anticipated they can be overcome, this is where experience sharing plays a crucial role as it is not the successes only which are being shared but also the failures.