At 17.3 %, youth unemployment in the EU remains at a high level. The hardly supported transition from school to job is often named as an underlying reason. It seems to be particularly difficult to make one’s first steps in working life. The dual systems in Austria and Germany are internationally seen as good possibility to smooth this path, however, also here there is still room for improvement.
Education is a very important issue at EU level. Even though the EU can only make recommendations in this regard, hence national education systems remain within national competence, important steps and initiatives are being set. What today's young people learn, does not only influence the kind of job they may have, but also defines, which role in society they might have in future. Hence, what is being taught and the way it is done are crucial aspects, which, against the background of quickly changing social, economic and ecologic circumstances, require careful consideration. The toolbox of future generations has to be filled in a way which enables them to cope with forthcoming challenges and work demands. On June 21, two proposals have been adopted in the Parliament’s Committees on Employment and Social Affairs as well as Education and Culture – the proposal on reviewing Europass and the proposal on the New Skills Agenda for Europe.
Further there are EU initiatives, which specifically deal with the far too high youth unemployment rate. The Youth Employment Package provides Member States with concrete recommendations as to how they might tackle the problem. At the heart of it lies the Youth Guarantee, which should give young people in the EU, who are neither in education, training nor in work, the opportunity to either continue their education or to find high-quality employment. In particular with regard to the difficult transition from education/training to work life, Austria and Germany are praised within EU context for implementing the dual education system. Even though there are similar EU-wide approaches, they fall short of experience gained by implementing theoretical knowledge in the context of a possible working environment – as Ben Butters of Eurochambres pointed out at the event Making Inclusion Work, at an EU level only a quarter of those young people in so called dual systems gets the opportunity to learn their future profession at an actual workplace. In contrast, an Austrian apprenticeship consists to 80 % of actual training in the working environment. Many experts at EU level agree that such a model can break the ice between school and job. At the same time, it is not possible to implement this system in exactly the same form in other Member States. As Bruno Lanvin of INSEAD at Europe, Young Talent and the Future of Work with regard to Switzerland as non-EU pioneer in respect of completed vocational training pointed out, it is important to take the different social contexts into account and also consider the social status an apprenticeship holder enjoys in this particular the society.
Even though Austria is one of Europe’s model students with regard to its dual system implementation, from the AK’s point of view there is still room for improvement, as shown by the Apprentice monitor, the so far most comprehensive survey of apprenticeships in Austria, which was carried out at the initiative of the AK, the ÖGB and the ÖGJ. Hence, there is still no system, which ensures the quality of training of apprenticeships. The trainers themselves are frequently not present during the training period, every third apprentice performs tasks, which do not bear any relevance to the job they is training for. Even issues governed by labour law are not without controversy – young people under the age of 18 are legally not allowed to work overtime; however, this is a frequent occurrence in particular in gastronomic business and the tourism industry. In addition, the school education of young trainees, which accounts for about 20 % of their training, must not be neglected – as another AK study shows, vocational schools are often less well equipped with digital media. However, digital skills are to become ever more important. Apart from that, it should also be possible to combine completed vocational training with other career paths or career diversions; under no circumstance must a graduate find themself in an 'educational cul-de-sac’. Hence, Austria is not yet allowed to only reap the benefits of the system, with a youth unemployment rate of about 10 %, every single unemployed young person is one person too many. Taking education counter measures is far more than a socio-political policy for affected individuals; they have positive long-term effects for societies as a whole.