Switch on Europe!

New Europe / Alexandros Michailidis

Young students protest outside the European Parliament, Brussels, Belgium. 25 April 2017 

Switch on Europe!


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This content is part of JA Europe‘s Knowledge Network on New Europe

Too few young Europeans have the support they need to fit themselves for sustainable employment. Result? The unemployment rate for 15-24 year olds in the EU28 is about 2.5 times that for those aged 25-74. In parts of Europe it’s significantly worse. Across Europe these figures represent disillusion, discouragement, and despair amongst young people. And for Europe it’s an opportunity wasted.

It’s time to act. ‘Switch on Europe!’ is a campaign, launched in April targeting policy-makers at European and national level. Through improved education strategies that include a greater focus on entrepreneurial competences and work readiness skills, they can improve the prospects of millions of young people.  Young people who have had this kind of training are finding work more easily. They are more aware of the skills employers are looking for and are 50% more likely to set up their own ventures later on, creating employment for themselves and others.

At a time of rapid societal change, ’switching on Europe’ has never been so urgent. 40% of companies say it’s hard to find young people with the skills their businesses need. Today just 1 in 10 students have access to entrepreneurship education. Less than half the EU’s member states have included it in their national curricula.

Teachers have told us that they would like more training in this field; they want to do more to help their students create the futures they want to live.

So teachers want to teach entrepreneurship; students want to learn; companies want to be involved; and some European governments have introduced it into their curricula. What’s missing? Bringing these groups into closer connection with each other, developing and spreading best practice, injecting urgency, and delivering better results across Europe.That’s where the European Entrepreneurship NETwork (EE-HUB) comes in. EE-HUB is a network brings experts together to identify and share best practice.

It recognizes governments that have successful national plans for entrepreneurship education, and encourages others to get on board. Working groups are examining how entrepreneurship education can be more impactful through better teacher training and assessment; how businesses can best engage with schools; and how to raise awareness of entrepreneurship education in local communities. Its ambition is nothing less than to see Europe’s entrepreneurship ecosystem thrive.

In two short years EE-HUB has acquired an impressive track record. Five expert working groups have prepared the ground for the 1st European Entrepreneurship Summit in Brussels in July. The summit will develop action agendas for policymakers, companies, colleges, and schools to work together to put entrepreneurship on Europe’s education map.

We’ll show how entrepreneurship training has generated the self-confidence and stimulated the aspiration of the young people experiencing it. We’ll give policy-makers concrete examples of projects they can actually deliver. We’ll showcase the ways we train and empower our volunteers and teachers. We’ll explore connections between would-be employers and would-be employees and see how together we can make them closer. The summit will be a demonstration of stakeholder commitment to entrepreneurship education and a kick-off for renewed efforts significantly to increase uptake on the ground.

Alongside the summit, my own organisation, JA Europe, will hold our 28th Company of the Year Competition. Winning mini-companies set up and run by 15-18 year olds will compete for a number of awards. Mini-companies are one of the best methods of entrepreneurship education available to schools — an intense, year-long, real-world experience.

Thanks to collaborative efforts like EE-HUB, more young people in more countries will have access to such experiences.  EE-HUB aims to ensure at least 1 in 4 young people have had such training by the time they finish school. That’s a tall order but we are confident it can be achieved.

Next year sees the launch of the EE-HUB as a permanent European Centre for Entrepreneurial Learning. In 2015 the EU endorsed a UN Sustainable Development Goal that committed the union substantially to increase the number of young people with skills training “for employment, decent jobs and entrepreneurship” by 2030. EE-HUB will give us a chance of hitting that challenging target.

None of this will work without the active engagement of Europe’s policy-makers. Our requests to them are simple:

1. We’d like to see European targets for participation in entrepreneurship education. There’s already a recommendation that every student should have at least one practical experience of entrepreneurship before leaving compulsory education. Let’s make sure that it happens – and let’s aim to exceed the target!

2. EE-HUB has proved that a Europe-wide network to share best practice has a crucial role to play. We’ve achieved a great deal with it over three years but there is so much more to do. Let’s expand the network, bring in the experts, and make it even stronger.

But we don’t want only to talk; we want to listen. Bring your ideas to the summit. Let’s act to bridge the gap between education and work. Europe is already one of the world’s leading proponents of entrepreneurship education — let’s take that to the next level and make it the continent where entrepreneurship education is available to all. The prize – a drastic reduction in youth unemployment – is surely worth our every effort.

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