Proper work in the years of virtual presence

Credits: YOUTHShare

Is the paradox understandable? Each and every project related to youth employment struggles to perform a meaningful intervention, re-skill or up-skill and definitely prepare young NEETs for the “real” labour market in a period in which the labour relations gradually turn digital.

And this is paradoxical in two ways. The first and obvious is already noted. The beneficiary NEETs of the YOUTHShare project receive training in niche and resilient sectors of the Mediterranean economy and embark on internships to receive “hands-on” experience… at a period in which the whole economy appears to turn towards the virtual presence. The COVID-19 pandemic, thankfully, will not last for ever. But our societies adapted so quickly to the virtual office, the virtual meeting, the virtual internship that we can foresee, beyond doubt, the future prevalence of the “virtual work”. The limitations of that development are not yet known but on the other hand labour relations have never been static. The YOUTHShare project and the Transnational Employment Centre, as well as the majority of youth employment projects managed to adequately adapt to the new conditions. Virtual training, virtual mentoring… even virtual internships made the implementation of the project feasible.

The second paradox, however, is much more subtle. The identification of beneficiary NEETs, the meeting with them, the psycho-social support and the monitoring of their progress, has never been virtual… and it has been a lot of work!

Anna Goudi, the Key Account Manager of the Greek branch of the Transnational Employment Centre notes that “YOUTHShare in Greece has supported so far, 80 disengaged women and more than 50 refugees or migrants by upskilling their digital competencies and
knowledge in social and solidarity economy. It does so, not only by training, placing them in work practice but mostly by motivating and empowering them of how to integrate into the labour market. Training has been adapted to the new conditions, but on the job-learning is a completely different issue. Our mission in the branch is to connect disappointed,
disengaged or out of work youth with social enterprises and NGOs forming a win-win situation. No matter if this is easy or difficult, the need to support young people is more urgent than ever”.

In that lines, Anna Michael, the Key Account Manager of the COOP training Placement Centre in Cyprus states that “Labour Market is becoming more exclusive and inaccessible for vulnerable groups, especially during the time of pandemic. The YOUTHShare project is creating a bridge for labour market integration by developing youth’s network and specific job skills. Most importantly, the major work of the COOP training placement centre is to develop trust between the NEETs and the labour market. And this is not a “virtual work””.

The hard work is apparent in the case of the Italian branch of the Transnational Employment Centre too. Nicoletta Avigliano, the Italian Key Account Manager, stresses that “amidst the pandemic, since June 2020, the Italian Branch engaged 140 NEETs in the YOUTHShare educational program which consists of 120 hours of training and a work placement for a month. The training activities are practical and highly oriented to encourage entrepreneurship. All participants have been engaged in the development of innovative project works focused on potential startup projects in the resilient economy sectors in addition to sharing economy and social economy practices. More than 5 project works have already been delivered so far and many others will be available by the end of the training cycle at the end of March”.

The Spanish branch of the Transnational Employment Centre follows suit. Mari Galiana Badenes, the Key Account Manager has noticed that “the fast evolution of technology is increasing the demand for a wider range of digital skills and high-level of digital competences. Under normal conditions that would turn out to be an access obstacle for many young people. The digital turn of almost every youth employment project has proved to be valuable at the end of the day. Nevertheless, this digitisation process has constituted the Key Account Manager’s role indispensable. New digital skills are indeed available and useful but the danger of disengagement is more real than ever. Under those conditions the YOUTHShare Transnational Employment Centre has a lot and very real work to do”.

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