Drawing on some of the research findings from the project, we identified four key areas to inform policy debates.
Generational differences: A myth
First, the generational differences in relation to work attitudes often referred to in public debates and in political discourses are myths. ‘Millennials’ are not ‘procrastinating’; their attitude to work cannot explain youth unemployment today. Young people today give as much importance to work as other generations at the same age. The value of work differs for everyone throughout the life cycle. Therefore, EU or national policies should not fail because of generation-specific cultural deviations. In other words, if we accept the findings of the literature that work values have a significant impact on values in general, then the stable nature of work values generation by generation provides policy-makers with firm ground to act. However, we detected differences in work values by age and period, as well as between two groups of European countries, so we should be aware that generational stability does not mean full-scale similarity.
The high level of commitment to employment in the youngest cohorts suggests that employment-generating policies can be important for helping the young enter into the labour market.
Youth unemployment: An insufficient focus
Second, focusing solely on the dimension of unemployment is insufficient for analysing labour market conditions and their impact on young people in Europe. Youth labour market outsiderness is an expression of unemployment, but also of precarious employment, and it has consequences for social and political participation. The implication is that the increasing diffusion and promotion of flexible employment is likely to have long-term negative consequences for young people’s labour market attachment. The negative effects of precariousness in employment will affect young people’s social capital. This provides a further reason for doubting the efficacy of temporary forms of employment as a means to promote the long-term stable employment of youngsters.
Third, the economic crisis did not ‘create’ youth outsiderness, rather exacerbated already existing patterns. Institutional arrangements can significantly impact on the prevalence of young labour market outsiders and the support available for them. The deleterious effects on social capital of specific unemployment and unstable employment are of more concern in some countries and contexts than others – interventions need to be targeted to suit local circumstances. Future (EU) youth policy initiatives should have a stronger element of institutional capacity building in order to facilitate their effectiveness in countries with comparatively weak institutions in the domain of school-to-work transitions and youth policy in general. For example, in Austria and Germany, low levels of youth outsiderness are associated with a relatively dense network of youth-related institutions and strong coordination among them.
Co-production of research: Implications for policy and practice
Fourth, including young people and those with complex needs as co-researchers should be encouraged because it can lead to research that more readily reflects the realities of young people’s lives. Policy-makers and practitioners should take note that tackling youth unemployment from a resilience-based approach, which takes into consideration all aspects of the young person’s life, can increase the likelihood of change. Such an approach also emphasises the importance of working at an individual and social level to tackle youth unemployment, rather than solely focusing on the individual.
Co-produced resources, such as the One Step Forward book, can be valuable tools for use in training practitioners (for example, social workers, teachers, psychologists, therapists and nurses), as well as foster carers and young people themselves.
Good practice example:
In Greece, the One Step Forward book was used in the training of over 200 support teachers (up to 2016). This was part of their vocational training and professional development run by the Greek Ministry of Education’s special education training programme.
Many support teachers work with students from foster care and they desperately need resources to help them with these relationships.
They have also used the Resilience Framework included in the resource as it contained useful ideas and basic guidelines for supporting those students.
These are new resources for the Greek context where support from central government is scarce.
The teachers involved evaluated the use of the book in training these teachers very positively and many suggested that it be used in the training of other professional groups working with young people.
The resources are available to download from: http://issuu.com/boingboingresilience/docs/one_step_forward_-_resilience/1 (UK edition) http://issuu.com/boingboingresilience/docs/one_step_forward_-_resilience_-_gre/1 (Greek edition).