European Employment Forum 2013 and not European Unemployment Forum 2014

european employment forum

Part 1 of the Sting’s Special Edition: European Employment & Youth

The time had come for Europe’s most prestigious event on Employment and the European Sting was there as official media partner of the European Employment Forum 2013. Given that raging European unemployment is one of the most burning issues that our policy makers need to tackle urgently and sufficiently, all eyes were on the Crowne Plaza hotel in Brussels, the venue of the event, on the 12th and 13th of November.

Day 1: Tuesday 12 November

The European Employment Forum 2013 started with the opening plenary, chaired by Mrs Jacki Davis, titled “Towards a job rich recovery and creating a sustainable future”. The plenary commenced from the right starting point, recognizing that after 5 years of austerity and unseen social disruption policies, that have literally skyrocketed unemployment in the Old Continent, the time has come to encourage employment and growth. Given that the 2014-2020 period is about to begin, the panellists were called to engage themselves and the audience in a fruitful discussion about how we can make the best of the resources available in the years ahead in order to make  Europe again a land of opportunity and jobs. Moreover, the results of the Annual Growth Survey were presented as well as the aims of the Employment Package. The speakers of the opening plenary were Omar Arias, Acting Sector Manager, Europe & Central Asia, The World Bank, Stefan Crets, Executive Director, CSR Europe and Karima Delli, MEP, Member of the Committee on Employment & Social Affairs, European Parliament.

Session 1: Reversing trends and creating jobs for young people

The European Employment Forum ambitiously sees staggering unemployment in Europe as a phase and not as a status. The topic of the first panel discussion of the first session of the Forum was focused on how young people can take the step from education to employment and/or self-employment. The challenges of this “passage” faced by youth were touched here. Also, it was analysed how Public Employment Services (PES) should become real ambassadors of this transition. NEETS (Young people Not in Education, Employment or Training) was also a point of attention for the panellists. The members of the panel were Stephen Farry, Northern Ireland Minister for Employment and Learning, Sven de Haeck, Director, Flemish PES-VDAB and Massimiliano Mascherini, Research Manager, Eurofound-the real challenges faced by new entrants to the Labour Market.

At the second panel discussion of the day it was discussed how Commission’s ‘youth employment package’ will contribute in an effective way to youth employment in Europe. It was immediately recognized that unemployment, and particularly youth unemployment in Europe, has reached sad records. The measures to be taken were discussed. The case of Germany was presented as well. The problem of implementation of the Commission’s ‘Youth Initiative’ to member states, particularly the ones drowned by destructive austerity policies, was analyzed. The people that took the microphone at this panel were Steve Bainbridge, Senior Expert, Vocational Education & Training ¨Policy, CEDEFOP, Susanne Koch, Director, German Federal Employment Agency and Matti Makela, Head of Project Management Office, Education Division, City of Turku, Finland.

During the third and last panel discussion of the first session of the European Employment Forum, representators of European youth were invited to the panel to give their own perspective on how their lives are affected by terrible unemployment and also how effective they see the measures to be taken to tackle the lack of opportunities in their lives. Two members of the think-tank ThinkYoung were on the panel to contribute to the dialogue, by sharing their view on education and entrepreneurship for young people in Europe. ThinkYoung encouraged young people not to be intimidated by the fear of failure, as part of their Fail2Succeed campaign. The speakers at the last panel discussion were, in detail, Andrea Gerosa, CEO, ThinkYoung, Young representatives, Thijs Buirma of the Generation Europe Foundation, Daniel Kaiser of ThinkYoung representing Eamonn Davern, Head of International Relations, Department o Work and Pensions UK and Pavel Trantina, Rapporteur for EESC opinions on the Youth Employment Package.

Session 2: Social investment-engaging all members of society

The focus of the first panel discussion of the second session of the Forum was on the Social Investment Package. This is the Commission’s programme to guide social investment in the member states. Despite the social policies of the member states, it is well understood that the challenges faced are not that different. The nature of this discussion was mostly of the proactive role that social policies should have since social investment brings better employment opportunities. The people that engaged in this dialogue were Dr Lieve Fransen, Director Europe 2020, Social Policies, DG Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion, Sian ones, EAPN Policy Coordinator and Conny Reuter, Secretatry General, SOLIDAR and Chair of Social Services Europe.

In the second panel discussion, the topic was how member states can learn from each other or from developing countries in terms of social activity best practices. Emphasis was put on knowledge and experience sharing. Romina Boarinin, Head of Monitoring Well-Being & Progress, OECD and Robert Manchin, Chairman and Managing Director of Gallup Europe were leading the discussion there.

The next panellists engaged into a dialogue on urbanization in Europe. Based on the principle that 50% of the world’s population is gathered in cities, distinguished panellists gathered to treat what urbanization trends actually mean for employment. Job creation plans and opportunities were introduced by DG Regio. The panel was comprised of Mike Cambell, Independent Policy Advisor, Mike Campbell Associates, Alison Partridge, Expert on Cities and Jobs, URBACT and Christian Svanfeldt, Policy Advisor, DG Regio.

The first day of the Forum closed with the topic: how to break the patterns of poverty and precariousness for minorities in Europe. The panellists focused on how we can ensure employment diversity in Europe for young, old people and women. It was also discussed how EU pre-accession funds can already promote employment in Southeast Europe. The speakers at the panel were Krzystof Balon, Rapporteur of the EESC opinion on the Fund for European Aid to the Most Deprived, Sarah King, Adviser, ETUC and Claudia Santoro, Cross Border Partnership Manager, Project SIMPLE.

Day 2: Wednesday 13 November

Session 3: Enterprise as state of mind and of governance

The first discussion of the day was devoted to the EU Entrepreneurship Action Plan – boosting the culture of entrepreneurship in Europe. The panellists of the first dicussion of Session 3 of the Forum focused on how people should take the challenge to make entrepreneurial steps and contribute to the European economy. Stephanie Mitchell, Deputy Head of Unit, Entrepreneurship at DG Enterprise and Industry, revealed that according to the Eurobarometer, the EU citizen is less willing to create his/her own business than the citizens of the US and China. Furthermore, Mrs An-Carla Pereira, Head of Unit, Entrepreneurship Education at DG Education & Culture, admitted that there is no educational strategy whatsoever in the EU with the exception of Scandinavia. Moreover, during the panel discussion, the role of government was treated as a driver for entrepreneurship in Europe. We need to build an “entrepreneurial ecosystem”, as the panellists put it, with better access to funding, better tax and regulation and also education that promotes start up minds. According to the Eurobarometer, 77% of the entrepreneurs in Europe cannot find access to funds. One important obstacle is the fragmentation of the financial market. There needs to be a unified venture capital scheme and an entrepreneurship culture in Europe, something that we lack to a great extent compared to the rest of the developed world, according to the panellists. The benefits that entrepreneurship brings to society were also stressed.

At the end of the first panel discussion the Sting placed its own question to the panellists, comprised by Alessandro Cenderello, Managing Partner of EU Institutions, EY (formerly Ernst & Young), Stephanie Mitchell and Ana-Carla Pereira, 2 representatives from the European Commission:

In many EU countries unemployment is close to 30% and for people under 25 approaching 60%. How can the EU entrepreneurship action plan tackle the sky rocketing unemployment in Europe?

We were astonished that at first the panellists, responsible for Entrepreneurship in Europe, pointed directly to some other fellow bureaucrats from the Commission responsible for unemployment, claiming that this is a question that should have been addressed the day before, that is Tuesday the 12th of November. The Commission officials answered, nevertheless, that entrepreneurship, potentially, can create jobs and hence reduce unemployment. Sensing that the question was never understood by the panellists we clarified that the question is whether, given the saturation of the market, the EU entrepreneurship action plan can provide an alternative of self employment for unemployed people. Then the message was clear from the bureaucrats at the panel that the European entrepreneurship plan is no way addressed to unemployed people, or at least it is not designed like that. Mr Cenderello from EY was more optimistic in his answer to us, saying that entrepreneurship can be indeed an alternative for unemployed people, whereas Mr Omar Arias from the World Bank, took the microphone from the public to make a constructive contribution to our question, arguing that unfortunately entrepreneurship cannot be an alternative for unemployed people since start ups do not always succeed, saying that the cases of Google and Facebook are truly rare.

Huge ICT jobs shortfall in Europe

Moving to the second panel discussion, the topic was digital agenda and the Grand Coalition for Digital Jobs. At the beginning of the discussion, Neelie Kroes, Vice President of the European Commission, responsible for the Digital Agenda, addressed her message to the panellists and the audience at the Ballroom I of Crowne Plaza. Mrs Kroes emphasized the importance of Digital Economy for European economy and growth. The Commissioner stressed the urgent need for good digital skills in Europe and she referred to the estimation that there will be a shortfall of 900,000 ICT jobs by 2015. She closed her message by admitting that, in shaping the European Digital Society of the future, the Commission and the Parliament cannot make it on their own. They need industry and the industry’s assistance for this reason. And this is something that the European Sting has pointed several times, the fact that the industry needs to give the right insightful stimuli to the EU policy makers in order to regulate in a modern and efficient way. It was then the turn of Mr Xavier Prats Monne, Deputy Director General for Education at DG EAC to say that the way to prosperity has always been education. He pointed out that 20% of the EU citizens don’t have ICT skills at all and that a “free online content of education” would endorse the better education of the European citizen.

Cisco representing the ICT sector in Europe

Last but not least, Cisco, represented by Mr Piotr Pluta, Senior Manager of Corporate Affairs, expressing the industry’s position on ICT, started by confirming the digital skills gap in the Old Continent. He continued by saying that Cisco has its own education programme that has given the opportunity to 250.000 students to benefit from cutting edge ICT training from one of the leaders in the industry. Mr Pluta took the opportunity here to underline the fact that there is a big mismatch between the demand of the market and the supply from European universities when it comes to ICT skills. Particularly, according to Cisco, the European universities do not integrate enough industrial training to their educational system, not making the most of the vast possibilities that the ICT industry can provide to European students. Moreover, Mr Pluta talked about how the European society and culture is not developed enough in ICT compared to other parts of the world like the USA that implement the “Tripple Helix” co-operation (Municipality-University-Business). He continued by pointing out in a very insightful way how even inside the European family for many youngsters ICT is “no good” and also that the parents are not adequately ICT educated. The Harvard Educated top ICT executive closed his talk by stressing again how the European universities do not encourage start up minds enough and, in addition to that, they often do not at all guarantee post study employment.

Insights by the World Bank

The next “chapter” of the Forum was a panel discussion that focused on whether technical assistance has the potential to benefit low income countries like new member states and potential candidate countries. Mrs Indhira Santos, a Senior Economist at the World Bank, monopolized our attention with her stimulating insights and experience from the BRICS countries and further. According to Mrs Santos, we can learn many important lessons in Europe from the BRICS. The challenges faced there for entrepreneurship are similar to the ones faced in the European Union. Access to finance is always a challenge for BRICS, as it is for the EU. Mrs Santos particularly referred to Chile, where the small South American country established a great strategic “Start-Up” scheme to give incentives and opportunities to young people to start their own business. According to this programme, the state funded young entrepreneurs that came to the country to start their own business with 40.000 dollars for a year. This panel discussion closed with Mr Ranko Markus, team leader of the Swiss-funded Youth Employment Project in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Mr Markus expressed his great worries on whether the EU pre-accession funds can be distributed and exploited effectively in the potential candidate countries, like Bosnia and Herzegovina.

To continue with this report of the European Employment Forum 2013, the next session of the prestigious event was on how social media can be used in as head-hunting and hiring tools. Caroline Bergaud, Director of MyJobCompany, Bert Verdonck, LinkedIn Master Trainer at How to REALLY use LinkedIn and Racher Whitehead, Global VP Digital Marketing at AIESEC, engaged in a very fresh and creative dialogue on new trends in social media. The panellists expressed their certainty that social media are not effectively used neither by the users nor by the companies to recruit talents. Best practice advice were heard and the session closed with an optimistic message that the full potential of social media will be better explored in the future.

An unfortunate closing political speech

As for the closing plenary, the European Employment Forum invited Mr Phil Bennion, MEP and Member of the Employment & Social Affairs Committee, to give a speech on the Employment 2020 targets and the challenges faced in Europe. Initially, for information about what the democratic representation of the European citizen had to say on the topic, we considered the choice of the Forum to invite an MEP working on European Employment a very good choice. We need to admit that, unfortunately, Mr Bennion let us down this time. Looking like being in a state of rush, in between other conferences and speeches inside a hectic agenda, he gave a “forced” speech that was not found convincing by many.

First and foremost, Mr Bennion began by admitting that we will never be able to reach the 2020 targets for employment. Having a European politician, officially representing the present and the future of half a billion citizens, saying that “the prospects are uncertain”, that the 2020 strategy targets will not be met whatsoever and let’s face it, and that he and his colleagues are trying to help the process and make attaining the targets a bit more likely, is sincerely not the best example of a politician’s speech. The ALDE MEP continued his rather unfortunate speech by saying that some member states have attained the targets and that he can’t see “why the rest can’t”. It was really as if this politician was not a member of the European Parliament but a member of a parliament of a distant country on the other side of the Atlantic ocean, not being able to empathize with the chaos that unemployed in many European countries face nowadays living in countries deprived of growth, due to monolithic austerity and fiscal consolidation. Mr Bennion should be able to know and count the exact reasons why the 2020 targets will never be met instead of wondering why member states cannot meet them. The British MEP closed his “contribution” to the Forum by advising European Youth: “Don’t go for a safe job!”. According to Mr Bennion, the Europeans lack the challenge and motivation to go for an “un-safe” job. Perhaps he forgets that a big portion of Europeans currently lack the opportunity to get “A Job”, safe or unsafe it doesn’t matter, and that is mainly due to politicians who consider employment targets impossible to reach instead of reaching them.

Epilogue

In any case, we consider Mr Bennion’s input an unfortunate contribution – if it is anything more than that it is up to the British citizen to assess next May and not up to us – which coincided with the closing plenary of the Forum. It surely cannot undo the great amount of effort and energy that was put at the European Employment Forum 2013, to be the right democratic platform for a dialogue with numerous useful insights on European Employment now and in the future. The European Employment Forum served its annual purpose very well on 12-13 November 2013, in engaging European policy makers and citizens in the democratic dialogue for better Employment in the Old Continent. We truly hope that the stakeholders present, based on the input received, will take all the necessary actions so that the organizer of this excellent Forum will not be obliged to rename next year’s event to “European Un-Employment Forum 2014”

Click on the buttons below to go to the Part 2 & Part 3 of the Sting’s Special Edition: European Employment & Youth

european youth forum

Part 3 of the Sting’s Special Edition: European Employment & Youth

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Comments

  1. If very great ideal if management of EU program can also work with other friend Out side county well. this would another extent Eu program of Youny Job and pyhsical ideal
    and friend , Remeber they still need vosion to be
    am from Uganda well, like conferences and others

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