EU programme ‘boosting language skills’, survey finds


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.

"At this sensitive age man struggles for self-completeness and a job is one of the key factors for achieving it. A young man confronted with unemployment in the most productive age of his life is unavoidably exposed to stress, depression and sadness," Greek centre-right MEP Georgios Papanikolaou said ahead of a vote in the European Parliament today on the EU's future youth strategy.

"If young people are deprived of hope and energy then the future, the sustainability and the viability of the whole society is at stake," he added.

"Youth in society is like the oil in an engine. If there is no good oil then the engine does not work or it malfunctions. If there is no happy and cheerful youth, then society is doomed to collapse," he concluded. 

The importance of multilingualism to the European Commission was underlined by the appointment of a commissioner, Leonard Orban, to manage the portfolio for the first time at the beginning of 2007.

However, a November 2009 reshuffle of the portfolios for José Manuel Barroso's second term at the EU executive's helm saw the dossier become part of the remit of a commissioner for education, culture, multilingualism and youth, held by Cypriot Androulla Vassiliou.  

Every year, the EU's 'Youth in Action' programme supports over 7,000 projects allowing more than 130,000 young people and youth workers to gain experience in the fields of non-formal education and youth.

Aimed at young people aged 15-28, it "aims to inspire a sense of active citizenship, solidarity and tolerance among young Europeans and to involve them in shaping the Union's future".

Its budget for the period 2007-2013 is €885m.

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