How Best to Help Young People Prepare for Their Future

2023 is the European Year of Skills, to promote future skills, including collaboration, communication, critical thinking and creativity. How can we fully support young people as they enter the world of work?
How Best to Help Young People Prepare for Their Future
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I had the privilege of attending and speaking at the European Youth Event 2023 at the European Parliament in Strasbourg.

The approximately 10,000 young people from all over the EU once again made it heartwarmingly clear to me that the European spirit and faith in the common European project will continue to exist into the next generation. In view of the upcoming European elections next year, we should have confidence in them and invest in the approximately 73 million young people between the ages of 15 and 29.

From the discussions on how to improve the transition from school to work and how to help young people prepare for their future careers, I would like to share some takeaways and give insights into the tasks ahead:

  1. In most countries, we need to make a real effort to modernise the career orientation framework and put career orientation on the political agenda.

Vocational orientation is a process of personal development that is not just about providing information on various professions. It is an important task to recognise young people with their individual talents and interests, and to support them in making a career choice that best suits them. At the same time, good vocational guidance must also keep the requirements of the labour market in mind, to give young people realistic perspectives. This requires good concepts, quality management and additional staff in schools who are reliably available for this support. Within the framework of a case study, we have worked out what is important for a successful vocational orientation. The good practices and experiences gained can also be helpful for other countries.

More on the Forum Network: How Can We Empower Young People to Successfully Enter Today's Workforce? Five Takeaways from the OECD’s session at the European Youth Event by Members, OECD Youthwise 2023

Today's young people face the challenges of recovering from the traumatic impacts of COVID-19, dealing with increasing mental health issues, and navigating the current cost-of-living crisis. How can they successfully navigate through employment obstacles?
  1. Young people and their potential and energy should be at the centre of our reform efforts, without shifting all the responsibility onto the young people themselves.

We asked young people what they need and want for their professional orientation: in addition to internships and (digital) information materials, it was above all personal conversations that were important to them and that best helped in their orientation process.

The Covid crisis has shown that we must not neglect young people and their needs. They have a right to our support so that they can develop their potential and gradually take responsibility for their (professional) lives. In doing so, the support must be offered early and be provided on an individual basis. If it is oriented towards the respective needs of the young person, it can give them exactly what they need to make the best career choice.

We asked young people what they need and want for their professional orientation: in addition to internships and (digital) information materials, it was above all personal conversations that were important to them and that best helped in their orientation process.

  1. Since we can only assume how digitalisation and AI will shape our working world in the future, we should focus more on skills development and competency – or skills-based career paths (including partial qualifications).

2023 is the European Year of Skills, to promote future skills, including collaboration, communication, critical thinking and creativity. These skills are gaining importance in an increasingly digitalised professional world and should be promoted early for all young people. Partial qualifications can also be a way to provide entry into vocational qualifications for young people, if for example, completing an apprenticeship is too difficult or an apprenticeship has to be interrupted.

  1. We need to make extra efforts to ensure that all young people have fair access to excellent education and training; we cannot afford and should not want to leave a quarter of our future generation behind.

The EU’s Youth Guarantee is the first step in this process and one that needs to be further developed. In many European countries, youth unemployment is very high, while at the same time, the need for skilled workers is increasing as demographic change progresses. Young people should be able to enter vocational training programs without detours. For this reason, Austria has had an apprenticeship guarantee for many years to help more young people to train directly after they complete their schooling. This is not the least a question of justice -  many disadvantaged young people often do not succeed in making the school-to-work transition.

In Germany, we are also concerned with how we can get more young people into training. Although dual training, combining both practical and theoretical training, should not be considered inferior to academic education, there is a lack of young people in many sectors. This also has an impact on other areas, such as climate policy. Without enough skilled workers in this area, the energy turnaround will progress only too slowly.

There is a lot to do to help all young people achieve a good future in Europe. The sooner we tackle the challenges, the better for everyone.

Many thanks to the OECD, OECD Forum and OECD Youthwise for making this session happen and for welcoming me and all the other panellists and participants.




To learn more, read Bertelsmann's report: European Case Study - Careers guidance in German Schools: recent reforms, best practice and lessons learned

What exactly does careers guidance entail? Which reforms and initiatives at the federal level and at the state level took place in Germany during the last years? Are there too many or too few careers guidance programs in German schools? What does quality management have to do with careers guidance? These and other questions are answered in this article. Furthermore, the article includes recommendations for in-school careers guidance policy and practice, which are also suitable for transfer to other countries.

Learn more about the OECD work on Youth employment and social policies

Successful engagement of young people in the labour market and society is crucial not only for their own personal economic prospects and well-being, but also for overall economic growth and social cohesion. Investing in youth is therefore a policy priority for the OECD. Through adequate skills, employment, social and broader policy settings, young people have the opportunity to fulfil their potential and maintain confidence in their future prospects.

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Go to the profile of Nadia Jahan
7 months ago

Very pertinent and relevant findings for guidance practitioners from the developing countries, like Pakistan.