Youth Challenges on the Islands
Social and economic equality is strongly linked to participation in the labor market. However, not all young people have equal access to employment. In order to give young people more opportunities in education and the labor market and enable them to participate fully in all aspects of society, several initiatives are working to address this problem. The Yenesis project was launched to meet the challenge of unemployment among young people who are not in education, employment or training (young people called “NEETs”) living on the islands. Young people on the islands often face several challenges, such as limited job opportunities and a lack of business skills or capital to start their own business. The creation of greener jobs is also one of the axes of the European Green Deal which, in addition to several other priorities, aims to improve the well-being and health of citizens and future generations by providing jobs and training sustainable for the transition. . The results of the Yenesis project can also contribute to the European green transition.
To reduce NEET youth unemployment and enable sustainable development on the islands, it is crucial to create green jobs on the islands that support discouraged young people who have stopped looking for work and are socially excluded. Specifically, islands have great potential to develop jobs in the areas of renewable energy, energy efficiency, sustainable transport and mobility. It is crucial that young people are empowered to create jobs for themselves and for other young people so that they do not have to leave their home islands once they enter the labor market. The Yenesis project provides training for young people on business innovation and even offers one-on-one mentorship to those with more specific ideas resulting in various youth-led start-ups and local businesses. However, these types of support and solutions should be much more institutionalized and have a broader reach.
EU support is needed
In the EU, issues related to youth and education policies are primarily the responsibility of each Member State. However, the EU can support and complement these initiatives by strengthening cooperation and providing financial support for other activities. As part of the Yenesis project, several policy recommendations at EU level have been developed. Inputs were gathered from numerous expert interviews and workshops held with experts working on youth and NEET policies in Croatia, Cyprus, Estonia, Greece, Italy, Norway and Spain, all European countries that have many islands. The policy recommendations were presented under different categories: education and training, labor market and business innovation, status of young people and NEETs, programs and action plans, communications and social/psychological and insularity.
In the areas of education and training, it is essential to provide young people with career advice on green jobs and offer lifelong learning strategies, including elements of upskilling and retraining linked to green jobs and adapted to people living on islands, as well as to recognize the importance of distance education and training activities to support personal development in remote areas. The limited supply of continuing vocational training opportunities on the islands and the lack of specialization can be addressed through vocational training. This should be included in EU policies and should also be supported at EU level. Support should then be targeted at green skills, entrepreneurship and building digital skills.
Other essential financial measures
Given the financial constraints of several EU Member States and regions, the implementation of a centralized European student loan system to support education and training could be beneficial for people who lack the financial means to continue their studies. Young people from the islands are often in a less favorable financial situation when planning studies on the mainland or abroad compared to those already living elsewhere due to the additional travel and accommodation costs. A centralized European student loan system could promote equity and reduce exclusion.