The role of EU funds in tackling the gap between education and work
The importance of the life-long learning programme is widely known. Their purpose lies in linking formal education with vocational training in order to prepare individuals for the next step: the working life. Yet, what the programme has so far failed in implementing is the construction of the further link to the actual job market.
On average, youth unemployment rates in the EU are still kept at around 9%, but, even within the Union, many different realities are to be taken into consideration (namely total unemployment rate, early school leavers, minorities and the investments in vocational training).
The European Funds do have a history of strategies and recommendations aimed at implementing a life-long learning programme for the labour market, for the purpose of “closing the gap” and increasing the likelihood of stable employment for youths from different backgrounds. In this framework, the main areas to be generally addressed by the Structural Funds relate, principally, to easing the transition between school and active life, as well as facilitating the access to vocational training. On the other hand, recipients include students, graduates, apprentices, staff assigned as instructor/tutor of apprentices, pupils from poor/rural communities, early school leavers and poorly qualified employees.
Within this area of intervention, operations will target the work-based learning schemes for students, as well as partnership initiatives between schools, universities and enterprises, by giving them significant support. Enterprises themselves should provide a suitable environment for the provision of flexible vocational training, by adapting it to the needs of employees with the scope of reinforcing their employability.
This is the context of action of specific EU-funded programmes, such as POSDRU (Sectoral Operational Programme for Human Resources Development), which has a pivotal role in implementing the aforementioned measures. By setting focus on a few priority axes, namely school-to-active-life transition, early school leaving prevention and vocational training provision, the programme itself seeks to improve the balance between education and employment by bringing a few indicative operations to the fore:
- Implementation of actions for the monitoring of the insertion of graduates into labour market;
- Development of innovative actions in view of improving transition from school to working life;
- Support to programs for maintaining pupils in education and preventing early school leaving;
- Development of integrated programs/packages for increasing access and participation in primary and secondary education for pupils belonging to vulnerable groups, including financial support for their families;
- Promotion of integrated services and alternative solutions for preschool education;
- Support to development of inside-firm training and incentives for employees to gain access to it;
- Provision of focused facilities for “hard to reach” individuals (unskilled and low skilled adult population).
The above stated measures can be found in the Priority Axis 2.1 of the Programme, which can be found and consulted on the EU Structural Funds section.