We cannot allow a lost generation that gets stuck in precariousness. Young people need to be treated fairly! The EU recovery plan must include effective measures that improve the situation of young workers and apprentices.

Young people are often the first to be affected by economic crises and are particularly hard hit. The COVID-19 crisis makes no difference. It has produced dramatic consequences for young people, that are left behind without employment or training opportunities to start their professional career. 

The situation is very worrying indeed (we have previously reported about the massive surge in youth unemployment, that some commentators now predict to increase by 70% within one year) – and responses to the precarious situation of young workers and apprentices must urgently be found at national and at European level.

A first EU-level response to the youth unemployment and apprenticeship emergency will be presented by the European Commission on 1st of July in the form of a Reinforced Youth Guarantee. This is the only instrument announced so far to tackle youth unemployment and reduce the number of young people not in education, employment or training (NEETs). It is based on the Youth Guarantee of 2013 which aimed to provide any person under 25 years, within four months of leaving formal education or becoming unemployed, with an offer for training, an apprenticeship, employment or a traineeship.

IndustriAll Europe welcomes the Reinforced Youth Guarantee and emphasises that it needs to reach further than the previous one. It needs to extend beyond the target group of 25 year old and ensure that young people receive offers of good quality.

On 1st of July, the Commission will also present an Updated Skills Agenda for Europe to foster skills, education and inclusion. This Updated Skills Agenda needs to be ambitious and must foster a recovery that will enable the green and smart transformation of European industry.

At national level, industriAll Europe affiliates are making efforts to promote apprenticeships and retaining apprentices in the light of very worrying projections regarding cuts in apprenticeships

Our Austrian affiliate PRO GE estimates a lack of 20% – 30% of apprenticeship places in autumn 2020. Whilst the Austrian government offers incentives for employers to recruit and retain apprentices after training (employers receive a bonus of 1000€ for recruitment and an additional 1000€ for retaining), this is not enough for the unions. In their campaign ‘Youth Without Job’ young trade unionists demand that the government increases the number of apprenticeships in the public sector and creates an emergency fond for apprenticeships. 

In Germany, the social partners at national level have joined the ‘alliance for apprenticeship and ongoing training’ established by the ministry for employment and the ministry for education. Among other measures, apprentices that are forced to suspend their training will receive legal and financial support to complete their training elsewhere. Observers comment however, that there are no concrete measures for ensuring enough apprenticeship places for 2020-21. 

In France, the government has presented a plan to relaunch apprenticeships. The plan includes a grant for hiring apprentices who want to obtain a qualification between July 2020 and February 2021. The grant will amount to €5,000 for minors and €8,000 for adults. The aim is to integrate the 800, 000 young people finishing school this year into the labour market, avoiding a lost generation. Furthermore, the French social partners in the metal sector (except FTM-CGT) signed a branch agreement that encourages hiring young people through a solidarity system of end-of-career adjustment. The system foresees that for every two departures, one young person is hired. 

In addition to the limited availability of apprenticeships, there are concerns about the quality of the apprenticeships on offer. In the aftermath of the 2008-09 crisis, apprenticeships were frequently used as cheap labour in essential sectors. Many apprentices were working full time, with apprenticeship contracts often not respected, including on remuneration. A practice that clearly disrespects the Council recommendation (2018) for quality and effective apprenticeships!

Luc Triangle, industriAll Europe’s General Secretary comments: “The situation for young workers and apprentices across Europe is extremely alarming. We cannot allow a lost generation that gets stuck in precariousness. Young people should not be taken for cheap labour, they need to be treated fairly. They need good quality apprenticeships that result in good quality jobs which offer security and the possibility for personal and career development through training and life-long learning. The EU recovery plan must therefore include effective measures that improve the situation of young workers and apprentices. We expect specific instruments and sufficient funding to ensure that young people become part of the qualified workforce that we desperately need in the green and smart industries of the near future.”

Contact: Andrea Husen-Bradley press & communication, Patricia Velicu youth policy adviser