Ninety-five percent of participants in the EU's 'Youth in Action' programme improve their language skills, while two-thirds (66%) believe the experience boosted their job prospects, according to a survey of the scheme's effectiveness published last week.
'Youth in Action', funded by the European Commission, aims to "inspire a sense of active citizenship" among young Europeans and encourage their participation in the democratic life of the European Union.
60% of participants in the programme voted in last summer's European Parliament elections compared to an average among young Europeans of just 29%, found the survey, carried out among 4,550 young people, youth workers and youth organisations at the beginning of the year.
As well as improving their language skills, participants said the programme had made them more receptive to multiculturalism (92%) and improved their ability to act in the interests of their community or society (86%).
The European Commission said the results prove that the EU's funding of youth projects has a "positive" impact on participants and confirm the effectiveness of the 'Youth in Action' scheme, which seeks to offer young people opportunities to acquire new skills through non-formal learning and encourage them to participate actively in society.
Youth unemployment soars
More than 5.5 million Europeans under 25 are unemployed, giving an unemployment rate of 21.4%: twice as high as that for the EU as a whole.
The publication of the Commission's study comes as the European Parliament prepares to vote today on a report on the EU's future youth strategy, drawn up by Greek centre-right MEP Georgios Papanikolaou.
Not only must young people face up to the aftermath of the economic crisis, but employers are also increasingly looking for professional experience when making appointments, Papanikolaou said ahead of the vote, making it even more difficult for young people to find jobs.
Calling for higher education to be linked more effectively with the labour market, Papanikolaou warned that the jobs offered to young people are often internships, which offer far less security. "The concept of traineeships should be redirected to ensure better future working opportunities," he said.
The Greek MEP wants member states to better coordinate their youth policies across all policy areas and show stronger political will to deal with rising youth unemployment at EU level.
Meanwhile, 95% of youth workers pay more attention to including an international dimension in their work as a result of 'Youth in Action', while 88% gain skills and knowledge that they would not be able to gain from national programmes, found the Commission study, the first of its kind.
The survey was carried out in all the EU's 27 member states and focused on participants in transnational projects.
The Commission has pledged to make such surveys "a regular exercise" in a bid to better evaluate the impact of its 'Youth in Action' programme.