For most people things turn out all right sooner or later. However, the statistics are worrying –as a consequence of the financial crisis, the young and inexperienced are often especially hard hit by unemployment, and there is a risk that some of today’s young people will reach middle age without ever having obtained an education or a proper job. Many of them live with their parents for a long time, but for those who get no support from home may face critical situations. This issue of DialogWeb contains articles about Nordic initiatives designed to help vulnerable youth.
The Danish article in this issue is an interview with Lars Djærnes of the Nordic Council of Ministers. His summary of youth unemployment in the Nordic region is based on a report presented at a Nordic conference held in Copenhagen on 8th October. Because of the recent crisis, youth unemployment is still higher than we would like it to be. This makes it all the more important that we engage in preventive work and try follow up the young people as soon as possible. Otherwise we might see our society being divided into an “A-team” and a “B-team”.
Youth unemployment rate in Estonia currently stands at 39 % – in other words, nearly half of all the young people in the country are jobless. What does that do to a society? How will it affect Estonia in twenty years’ time? The government has allocated resources to helping the young ”get a foot in the door” in the job market or finish their studies, but the critics claim that not enough is being done.
It is not uncommon that young people enrol in a study programme which they never finish. In Norway, the problem of so-called dropouts is starting to become a societal problem. The Harpo vocational qualification centre has succeeded in slowing down the dropout rate by following up dropouts at an early stage after their withdrawal from school and by using preventive measures.
In Finland, too, resources are being channelled towards young people at risk of exclusion from education and the job market and lacking a protective social network. A pilot project with outreach youth work, started in 2008, turned out to be so effective that it is going to be made compulsory in every municipality starting 2011.
To date, there is no youth law in the Åland Islands that would protect young people’s rights or provide a safety net for those without a job or a place of study. What the youth of Åland do have is Katapult, a project targeting young people who are unsure of what they want or lack the necessary tools for reaching their goals. The question is whether counting on the energy and goodwill of a few enthusiasts is enough?
As many as 62 percent of young people living in the Faroe Islands leave their home country to pursue an education elsewhere. In comparison, the corresponding figure for Denmark, Norway and Finland is only 2–5 percent. Meanwhile, only 25–30 % of Faroese students want to return home after they have finished their studies. In other words, the Faroese authorities have their work cut out if they are to get well-educated people to remain in the islands.
This issue’s Icelandic article introduces a real adventurer – Arnar Felix Einarsson, who is a mountain guide and member of a rescue team. Since 1977, the rescue school run by Landsbjörg rescue association has offered courses in fell-hiking, first aid and parachute jumping, etc. “Staying in shape and always ready for a rescue mission has become a lifestyle”, Arnar Felix says.
He seems to have found his path in life, something that can be crucial for one’s success.
Jeanette Canborn, 22, from Sweden has found her own path – she is studying to become a payroll administrator in Stockholm. Her education programme is a so-called Higher Vocational Education Course (HVEC), which receives public funding from the relatively newly-established Swedish National Agency for Higher Vocational Education. HVECs are required to maintain close ties with the job market, and statistics show that between 80 and 90 percent of students find employment after finishing their course.
Extra information: Swedish projects are being started to help young people who are neither studying nor working. A guidance centre in Malmö is intensifying its efforts to reach out to at-risk youth by complementing conventional printed letters (which many people leave unanswered) with an online form, an SMS service and a new target-group-specific mass postings. More information (in Swedish): www.malmo.se/uppfoljningen