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Jobs and Skills for Youth: How Telecentres can Make a Difference

By Masha Tarle on May 28, 2013

Youngster completing Skillage application_telecentre Craiova
A young Romanian completes a Skillage application

The demand for employees with ICT skills in Europe is growing considerably: as many as 900,000 ICT job vacancies are forecasted to remain unfilled by 2015. At the same time, young Europeans are gravely affected by unemployment: 23.5% of Europeans under 25 years old are out of work. What is even more worrying is that 14 million young people in Europe are currently neither in employment, education, nor training of any kind (the so-called NEETs). The social and economic consequences of not integrating this population in activities that direct them to employment or learning will be serious and long-term.

Telecentres in Europe have an opportunity to do something about this issue and contribute, together with other agents (within the Grand Coalition for Digital Jobs), to practical solutions. They are indeed ideally placed to get young people interested in technology: they are close to the community, they can knock on the door of ICT companies, and they already enjoy access to technical knowledge, tools, and resources.

Get Online Week in Lithuania
Students collaborate during Get Online Week in Lithuania

An increasing reason why young people are not choosing a career in ICT is a lack of information about what and where to study in order to get into an ICT career that will eventually lead to employment. In addition, the fast pace of changes in this sector makes it difficult to stay on top of the trends. Also, let us not forget that motivation plays an important role: we need to determine what can be attractive about these careers to young people today. Telecentres may just be the right place to start!

Telecentres are indeed already providing a number of training and inclusion services for youth across the European continent. The activities of the 2013 Get Online Week (GOW), held from 18 to 24th March in 28 countries, and organised by Telecentre Europe can testify to the commitment of telecentres to provide young people with concrete and useful services. The 38 networks of local telecentres unleashed an impressive amount of resources during Get Online Week 2013 and organised thousands of events, trainings, workshops, and conferences. For example, the Latvian Information and Communications Technology Association (LIKTA) held “ICT Career Days” in Latvia during which ICT companies and other organizations opened their doors to promote the ICT profession among students aged 15-19. In the 2013 edition, more than 300 students, career consultants, and teachers had the opportunity to meet ICT professionals (programmers, software testers, customer support specialists, and high level managers) and attend seminars to learn more about ICT career opportunities.

Another possibility is for young people to use telecentres in order to have a better overview of the general digital skills needed for employment in any sector of their choice. We tend to think that young people, especially if they are already active online and computer users, already possess the basic ICT skills needed for work.  However, different sectors have different needs and young people should be aware of the ICT skills needed in professions they are aiming at. A good example and starting point is a tool used during Get Online Week called Skillage. Available in 20 European countries, Skillage is an online self-assessment tool that helps young people understand the more sophisticated ICT skills needed for the job market. Through a series of 15 questions Skillage challenges the user to understand the areas they could improve upon as well as know the learning venues where they can get support to do so. It also gives policymakers a better understanding of ICT skill levels in young people across Europe.

And let us not forget that young people, with their drive and creativity, are ideal candidates for start-up companies, not simply technology start-ups, but also other types of companies that would greatly benefit from their founders being proficient in ICT. This is yet an area to explore but telecentres could be “innovation hubs” where young entrepreneurs pitch their ideas and look for business partners or financing opportunities.

Get Online Week was highlighted by the European Commissioner for Digital Agenda Ms. Neelie Kroes as one of the major European initiatives on digital empowerment and awareness on digital skills. Telecentres have once more been applauded for their work and outcomes and are now being invited to take up the new challenge of equipping young people with the necessary level of ICT skills that would allow them to apply for one of the 900,000 digital jobs available in the near future. In order to contribute to this objective, local telecentres in Europe need to be supported in their work throughout the year, and their role as current and potential transfer stations on the road to youth employment, should be recognised.

IT career guidance training in Zheleznogorsk
IT career guidance training in Zheleznogorsk

In the upcoming 4th Global Forum on Telecentres or “Spark13” conference to be held in Granada, Spain, these issues regarding youth and telecentres will be tackled in two separate panel sessions to be hosted by Telecentre-Europe. The sessions, entitled “Youth: Skills and Employment” and “Youth: Entrepreneurship,” will take place during the first day of the 2-day conference taking place on May 28-29. Spark13 is organized by Telecentre.org Foundation (TCF), Telecentre-Europe, Consorcio Fernando de los RiosRed Guadalinfo, and the National Information Agency of Korea (NIA). For more information on the conference, visit http://spark.telecentre.org or follow the official Twitter account at http://www.twitter.com/sparkgranada (use hashtag #spark13).

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