Face to face! After almost two years of online presence, we all understand the hidden meaning of this, otherwise, standard phrase. Face to face is much more than meeting in person; it implies a range of meanings being conveyed through facial expressions, body posture and, at the end of the day, our 3D presence in the same room. Face to face is a whole different experience of communication that we almost forgot during the COVID-19 pandemic.
It is those two particular terms, Experience and Communication, that dominated the YOUTHShare Steering Committee meeting that took place in Murcia, Spain; two years after the previous face to face meeting in Matera, Italy. Alongside the Steering Committee, the Open Event YOUTHSharing Experiences materialised those particular terms in a celebration of an, at last, physical co-presence of both friends and cooperating organisations as well as of beneficiaries and stakeholders.
The open event has been selected and featured for the European Sustainable Development Week 2021. The YOUTHShare project since its design in 2017 has a constant aim to support the Decent Work for NEETs and consequently the Decent Economic Growth in Southern Europe; thus, fully resonating the 8th Sustainable Development Goal of the United Nations. The European Sustainable Development Week is a european-wide coordinated action that brings together events promoting the 17 Goals of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
The YOUTHSharing Experiences event followed a blended format. On September 18th, 2021, the participants of the Steering Committee meeting, local stakeholders in Murcia, beneficiaries of the YOUTHShare project gathered either physically in the welcoming UCAM Catholic University of Murcia or online to share their views and concerns about the state of youth employment in the Mediterranean regions. From that day and until September 24, NEETs, researchers, stakeholders and managers have been sharing their views on youth employment and the YOUTHShare project in particular on the facebook event page.
Among the stakeholders, the keynote speaker Mr Juan Antonio Pedreno, President of UCOMUR (Cooperatives’ Union of the Region of Murcia) and UCOERM (Training Cooperatives’ Union of the Region of Murcia) explained in detail the skills gap between the labour market needs and the youth in Spain. The other keynote speaker, Ms Adriana Lastra, President of PAREM (Association for the Support to Refugees and Migrants in the Region of Murcia), presented the complicated needs of refugees and migrants towards their social integration that, inescapably, goes through employment.
On the other hand, beneficiaries, researchers and managers recorded some really interesting statements reflecting their experience with YOUTHShare and the steps forward they identify.
Aniza is a former NEET and YOUTHShare beneficiary. She came to Spain from Peru and finds the project as a “great opportunity for immigrants. It brings us in contact with companies and improves our employability by providing skills and knowledge on the circular economy. Especially the soft skills provided are important for an assertive positioning in the labour market”. As a step forward she asks YOUTHShare to “increase the internship time and open up the topics of training and internships such in agricultural engineering”.
Miris is also a former NEET but local to Murcia. She thinks that through the YOUTHShare project she came across a different working environment but at the same time believes that “the process of job matching regarding the internships was rather slow. I would prefer a faster approach”.
Ariadna is one of the beneficiaries that decided to do an international internship by moving from Spain to Greece. She records her internship that lasted almost one month as a very positive overall experience. Nevertheless, the whole experience could be enhanced by expanding the internship period. “One month is too little time for an internship. By the time one gets used to the place and the organisation, it’s over”. She also notes the need for a better flow of information between the project and the potential as well as existing beneficiaries.
Mari is the Key Account Manager of the Spanish branch of the Transnational Employment Centre. “It is my first time in such a large project. The project has dimensions much larger than any other I knew before. Yet I’m always eager to do a little bit more for those migrants. It was really satisfying to get to know the real needs of the people, through the YOUTHShare project”. Yet, she views the capacity to do with policies at regional level as an important future step. “I would make the project more impactful after its end for the immigrants”.
Markela is the local manager of CARDET, YOUTHShare project partner in Cyprus. “I would describe the YOUTHShare as a happy moment. The time spent to be around and help people lacking motivation is invaluable. The YOUTHShare project had a lot of impact on them changing their lives, finding jobs etc”. On the other hand, she believes that higher funding on internships in order to be able to help more people would be always welcomed.
Carlos is one of the junior researchers of the YOUTHShare project. “I was a PhD student and it was stressful, especially in an international environment such as that one. But as a challenge it definitely improved myself. I would love to see, however, data collection from qualitative sources as well; like focus groups”.
Praxedes is one of the senior researchers and supervisor of Carlos. “The YOUTHShare project, through qualitative and quantitative methods, researched the NEETs at the European level. In the future we could possibly replicate the approach to the societies of South America. For the time being, more focus on regional level is needed in the Mediterranean world, because the differences are so vast. The training needs to take into consideration regional peculiarities since the local development depends on different topologies and sociologies”.
Nicola is the coordinator of the Transnational Employment Centre’s branches. For him the YOUTHShare project has been an amazing experience. “I am proud to be in the team. The Transnational Employment Centre, since 2019 has recorded some really impressive numbers. The four YOUTHshare branches provided to around 900 NEETs with services including CV development, job matching and of course training. Around 400 women, 200 migrants and 200 NEETs that don;t belong to the immediate targets of the project have been supported. Nevertheless, the increase of the duration of the internships is important in order to build long lasting relations between interns and employers. Still we have an excellent starting point to build upon in the future”!