Europe must help its youth through ‘dual training’ plan

By Jørn Neergaard Larsen, Director General of the Confederation of Danish Employers and Harald Børsting, LO-president.

You report that diverging economic paths in Europe are leading to a two-speed EU (“Eurozone sees economic paths diverge as reforms pay off”, Jan 4, 2012). We must ensure that the level of the best performers is reached across Europe. But we must also be aware that our labour markets are diverging as well, to the detriment of our youngsters.

Today, 40 pct. of all unemployed are less than 30 years. 9 million young Europeans are without a job. This is unacceptable as the next generation is the source of innovation and new ideas; a decisive factor for Europe’s productivity and economic growth.

Two pathways into the labour market must be created: First, an education system that actually provides young people with skills sought after by companies and second, mobile and dynamic labour markets that offer many job entries.

Dual training systems with school and work-based training are part of the answer. Countries with such systems have comparatively low youth unemployment, e.g. Denmark, Germany, Austria.

Dual training has advantages if a proper framework is in place. Young people gain both theoretical and practical skills, readying them for work-life. Companies get acquainted with young ‘newcomers’ and get a first-hand pick of future graduates. For society, work-based learning will spread young people geographically from the educational city centers to regional industrial areas.

Increasing young peoples’ employment rate and improving their level of qualifications are part of the EU2020. Several EU-countries have included improvements of the educational systems in their national reform program, including setting up dual systems. The Confederation of Danish Employers (DA) and The Danish Confederation of Trade Unions (LO) recommend that EU-sources be allocated to finance part of the initial costs in setting up dual training at branch, regional or national level as part of the reform programmes.  The EU cannot afford not to!

Bragt i Financial Times, 9. januar 2012