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The European Model for Tackling Youth Unemployment

Posted April. 04, 2010 01:04,   


A 21-year-old woman working for the Swiss insurance company National Swiss in Frankfurt, Germany, told The Dong-A Ilbo without hesitation, “I’ll give my name card two years later.”

She began working in September last year as an intern while studying. Her company has hired all of its interns after a certain period of time.

The internship system was the basis of an “employment revolution,” which led to an increase in youth employment in Germany despite the global economic crisis. The youth employment rate was 47.2 percent in 2008, higher than in pre-crisis years (44 percent in 2006 and 45.9 percent in 2007).

Countries are striving to resolve unemployment for youths. Korea’s youth employment rate for the 15-24 age group was 23.8 percent in 2008, nearly half of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development average of 43.7 percent.

Korea can learn lessons from European countries, which introduced customized solutions that befit the conditions of individual regions and companies after realizing the consequences youth employment would bring.

- Internship programs in Germany and Switzerland

The woman returned to a vocational school for just two months in January and May to learn accounting and business administration in the three-year internship. She spent most of the time at the company learning practical skills.

“Most of my friends who graduated from the same gymnasium (a secondary education institute for those who want to enter college) went to college but I chose a vocational school,” she said. “I’m satisfied with my decision because the internship gives me a job earlier than others as well as an opportunity to make money.”

The company has also expressed satisfaction with interns. A staff member of the personnel department said, “Those who finish the three-year internship are more competitive than those who join the company after college graduation. So the company prefers the former group.”

Germany runs internship programs for 35 professions such as baker and banker. Among 2,040,000 companies, 493,000 accepted interns last year. Business Week says this internship program could alleviate youth unemployment in the U.S.

A researcher at Bundesinstitut für Berufsbildung, a federal institute for vocational training, said, “Internship programs are so popular in Germany, even students who want to go to college take the courses,” adding, “Those programs has played a significant role in reducing the country’s youth unemployment rate.”

Switzerland is another successful case. The country has created jobs for youths through systematic job training.

In vocational schools, students are asked to choose two majors from among cars; machinery; electrics and electronics; architecture; logistics; information technology; and machinery operation. The schools also run mentoring programs not only to teach skills but also help students adapt to new corporate environments.

The principal of LfW, a vocational school in Zurich, said, “Students at this school go to companies in fields related to their majors to acquire practical skills twice a week and regularly meet with people in their sectors.”

- Britain pouring money into job creation projects

“Write down obstacles to getting jobs on a Post-it note and put it on the blackboard,” said a lecturer at Skills Training UK, a vocational school in Brighton Sunday. He was giving a lecture on motivation for 10 young jobseekers.

The youths, who had sought jobs for more than six months, were taking the course for free with support from the British government.

In September last year when Britain was suffering from the full-blown economic crisis, London presented a “flexible new deal” to require those between ages 18 to 24 to take customized job training if they failed to land jobs for six months.

Youths are ineligible for unemployment benefits of 50 pounds (76 U.S. dollars) a week if they do not undergo the training. More than 80 percent of those in the program get jobs before the 52-week program ends.

A manager of Total Security Service, a security service company, hired two young people after an interview with The Dong-A Ilbo.

The British government is suffering from a budget crunch but spends money to tackle unemployment. Its Future Jobs Fund worths one billion pounds (1.52 billion U.S. dollars) to support job creation for those aged 18-24. A “September guarantee system” helps get jobs for those aged 16 to 17 who have finished compulsory education.

A director at Skills Trading UK said, “The British government is presenting unprecedentedly strong and diverse measures to create jobs for youth,” adding “In particular, the government uses the term ‘guarantee’ to ensure jobs for youth.”

- Customized job training in Netherlands

Three young people learned skills at a bicycle repair shop on the outskirts of Amsterdam Tuesday under a customized government program for youths at severe disadvantage of getting a job.

After assessing their aptitude, skills and knowledge, the government has the youths undergo training among a number of vocations such as bicycle repair, nursing, childcare and janitorial work at 18 small companies.

The managers of such programs regularly visit the companies to listen to what the trainees have to say. Depending on what the trainees have learned, they are put to work eight to 13 weeks after finishing training.

Lee Seo-won, a senior researcher at LG Economic Research Institute in Seoul, said, “Field-oriented and customized vocational programs in European countries are effective for long-term employment.”

“Korea should also introduce such job training programs for those who have finished compulsory education.”