Besides common geopolitical position, the Western Balkan countries lack some recent statistical data. They rank first in Europe in terms of youth unemployment. Improving employability and working to empower young people for a dynamic labour market is a common goal that brings together 18 civil society organisations from Serbia, Montenegro, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, implementing projects supported under the WeB4YES grant scheme.
From October 7 - 11, 2019, representatives of the awarded civil society organizations participated in a study visit to Sweden and Denmark.
The aim of the visit was to strengthen the capacities of 18 award-winning Western Balkan organizations through learning about mechanisms and good practice examples in Sweden and Denmark regarding youth employability policies. Below you can read a brief overview of the work of the organizations visited.
Flexible instead of permanent jobs
The first organization that has hosted a delegation from the Western Balkans was the FH - Danish Trade Union Confederation in Copenhagen, the largest national trade union confederation in Denmark - recognized as the most representative organization of workers in the private and public sectors at the national level. During the two-hour visit, WEB4YES delegation had the opportunity to hear in what ways the Union advocates and influences decision-makers on employment policies. One of the interesting data we have found is that the minimum hourly wage is not regulated in Denmark, as well as other elements such as absences, rights and obligations governed by a collective agreement. Employment flexibility is widespread because it contributes to the encouragement of employers to hire and to have a turnover of over 800,000 jobs a year. Within the Union, there is also a "young trade union" organization that brings together over 230,000 young people in Denmark. The activities of the youth union are to promote youth entrepreneurship, but also to promote the labor rights of young people (students, students) who, in addition to education, want to be active participants in the labor market by engaging in part-time jobs. What we have heard interesting is that work placements and volunteering do not exist as concepts, and that young Danes do not have a path to first employment through internships.
When ministries come together…
Desiring entrepreneurship to flow into all segments of education in Denmark (from pre-school to higher education), the Danish Foundation for Entrepreneurship was created in 2001. The foundation was established at the initiative of four representative ministries: the Ministry of Economy and Growth of Denmark, the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Culture and the Ministry of Higher Education and Science. During the visit to this organization, we were able to inform ourselves how entrepreneurship is being introduced into education at the micro and macro levels. For example, at an early age it was integrated through innovative approaches to full-time teaching in classes such as physics and geography, while at higher levels represented as an independent subject in secondary schools or as a course at colleges. In addition to the Foundation's hard work in promoting entrepreneurship, part of the action is to provide training for teachers and teachers to introduce the entrepreneurship segment into their classrooms and empower future young people for a dynamic job market. The second level of activity of the Foundation is financial support for students and young people who want to venture into entrepreneurial waters and start innovative businesses up to € 8000 in grants.
On a morning coffee with the Swedish Trade Union Confederation
The Swedish Trade Union Confederation is an umbrella organization with 14 branches that organizes workers in both the private and public sectors. The Confederation, which brings together about 1.5 million employees in Sweden, was founded in 1898 by the blue-collar union (a name for senior-level employees). In a conversation with a representative of the WEB4YES Confederation, the delegation learned how the Confederation stands for workers' rights and advocates for better labor rights, as well as the importance of communicating with educational institutions, whether public or private, and jointly, to create occupational profiles that will correspond labor market needs.
Student Support Center - Drivhuset Hub
Within the University of Malmö, the WEB4YES delegation got acquainted with the work of the Drivhuset organization implementing mentoring programs to support students to put their entrepreneurial innovative ideas into action. Accordingly, Drivhuset provides individual coaching for entrepreneurial students and coaches come from different fields and expertise. Through an interactive session between presenting successful entrepreneurial ventures and grants that students can apply for, the hosts shared the fact that over 50% of students who come into hab with entrepreneurial ideas are migrants (young people from the Western Balkans).
School without tests - yes, it's possible!
How to support young people who have dropped out of school to complete the started? How to support young people who work or are parents to get better qualifications? How can young people seeking a better life come to Sweden to integrate into society? The answers to these questions, we found in Malmö folkhögskola. In addition to supporting young people who have dropped out of full-time education to return to the education system, this school is unique in that it does not use tests to assess student achievement, but various techniques such as task management, critical thinking, teamwork and the like. In addition to the continuing education support received by over 120 young people each year, this school also provides career guidance and counseling services to its students, so that after obtaining a school diploma (which is recognized and although not conducive to gaining a specific occupation, it provides an opportunity to enter the labor market / enroll in college). During the tour of the school premises, the delegation of the Western Balkans had the opportunity to see some of the lessons that are being implemented using modern learning concepts.
Football or career
If you were wondering how it is possible to combine one of the most popular sports in the world with a career academy, the answer is in the new stadium of the Malmo football club. The Citizens' Association Career Academy, founded on the initiative of supporters, has been operating within this football club since 2014. Since its founding, up to 220 young people have been employed with the support of the Academy.The Academy organizes various events that contribute to the promotion of youth employability such as job fairs and internships (paid), various meetings of employers and unemployed youth and the like. In addition, there is a restaurant within the stadium that hosts over 2000 people daily during major events. The Academy sends a strong message to Western Balkans organizations that it is possible to combine sport, social work and entrepreneurship and calls on organizations to be proactive in the changes they want to achieve.
New policies in the work of the National Employment Service of Sweden
Instead of registering unemployed people and a large number of counters for paper more, the premises of the National Employment Service in Sweden are more like hab. In the inspirational presentations of the WEB4YES delegation heard about the challenges of integrating into the Swedish labor market, by which active measures the service supports new arrivals and persons from less employable categories such as people with disabilities. services for the unemployed, while training with additional qualifications, retraining and soft skills is being implemented in cooperation with employment and consulting agencies.
Challenges of inclusive youth work
The latest, but equally significant, organization visited by representatives of civil society organizations from the Western Balkans is the Fryshuset Foundation. This non-profit organization works to bring about social change and positive development with young people and for young people around the world. Fryshuset promotes the empowerment and social inclusion of young people, especially those at risk or already experiencing exclusion. The organization boasts extensive experience in working directly on the ground (streets) with young people on the sidelines of society and the law, programs for re-socialization and reintegration into society. In addition to providing various types of support to at-risk youth, Fryshuset has significantly developed career guidance and counseling programs that are a significant tool for youth empowerment.
Study visit to Sweden and Denmark was organized within the WEB4YES project - a regional initiative aimed at empowering civil society organizations to participate in decision making and advocacy for changes in youth employment policies in 6 Western Balkan countries.