The YOUTHShare project has demonstrated though its scientific reports that “one size does not fit all”. The term ‘NEET’, by definition, includes a long range of different types of unemployed or inactive people. Being a structural feature of national and regional economies, the NEET phenomenon is overdetermined by the deeply embedded articulation of economic factors. As a result, not only the NEET rate reflects diverse causes both nationally and regionally, but also the NEETs themselves face diverse challenges. Diversity in causes and needs, therefore, has been identified early enough by the research staff of the YOUTHShare project.
Nonetheless, in the implementation stage and more specifically in the work of the Transnational Employment Centre and its Key Account Managers, diversity has been conceptualised with a variety of different meanings. They have a central role in the YOUTHShare project the essence of which is to bring in contact NEETs with the support structures organised, namely training, internship and mentoring for their future business endeavours in social economy. In that respect, probably their basic function is ‘Coaching’.
Mari Galiana Badenes, Key Account Manager of the Spanish branch of the YOUTHShare Transnational Employment Centre notes that “the prospect of making decisions around careers can be daunting, anxiety-inducing and confusing. Young people must make crucial decisions and stand by them. It is necessary to cast off negative self-perceptions or labels, understand that it’s in their power to change, and give them the tools to do so, without neglecting what young people need for life; direction, confidence and the ability to present themselves professionally and persuasively. Confidence is a skill that can be developed and taught. It’s a skill that will enable them to understand that the world is full of opportunities”.
In that framework, diversity becomes not just an abstract feature, neither just a challenge. It can also become a tool to be used. Anna Michael, of the COOP Training Placement Centre of the YOUTHShare project in Cyprus, identifies diversity between the Key Account Managers as a invaluable asset. “Each Key Account Manager has a different professional background in supporting youth towards their career development. During this journey we had the opportunity to come across inspiring youth with visions and goals for a better and happier future. Starting from finding independence, to creating their own business or contributing to a better world. Having a role of a fellow walker we have witnessed the immense power that each of us is hiding. There is a great potential in youth once we allow the space for them to develop themselves”.
The diverse background of the Key Account Managers is instrumental in addressing the “elephant in the room”, namely the fact that NEETs and Key Account Managers have a diverse role in the coaching relationship. Maria Cristina Porfidio, Key Account Manager of the Italian branch of the Transnational Employment Centre stresses that “coaching means not only providing young people with a first insight on the current labour market or advice to realize desired jobs. A career coach has to understand that the word ‘desire’ is not irectly linked to the term ‘goal’. Setting a goal means to envision and commit to achieve a future result. Another important aspect of the relationship between the career coach and the NEET is that there is a “DEAL” in which the goal and the skills to be reached are clearly defined”. Role of the Key Account Manager is to illuminate the path for the NEET or to lead without directing. In that respect, the Key Account Manager has a substantial power, the exertion of which should never be understood as such.
Diversity, however, is also over-determined by the operational exigencies. And the COVID-19 pandemic has indeed caused a plethora of exigencies diversifying daily the work of the Transnational Employment Centre. Anna Goudi, the Key Account Manager of the Greek branch states that “coaching youth from diverse backgrounds is YOUTHShare in practice. This is not so easy, especially during pandemic. It demands empathy, active listening, communication, sharing ideas and motivation. And all these should now be performed remotely, without conventional face-to-face tools, and without being able to build upon prior experience and skills such as reading one’s body language or expressions. Key Account Managers need to “hear between the lines”, to use “tools and techniques” that compensate the lack of face time and to build relations and understanding from far away”.
The YOUTHShare project works to remove the barriers young people face as they make Greece and Europe their home. Through shared experience and collective knowledge stemming from diversity and building on this diversity our communities will flourish.
Mari Galiana Badenes
Maria Cristina Porfidio