Conference about young people without young people
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”We are sure we are not invisible but we felt like that. We even had colorful t-shirts and our colleagues promoted us. However, we did not feel politicians saw and heard us; our questions are still open.” - six young people from six countries- participants at the NEETs conferenceBucharest, Romania, 10-11 March 2014.
This week, the Government of Romania in collaboration with the European Commission organized an International Conference ‘Keeping Young People in Employment, Education and Training: Common Challenges, Shared Solutions.’ We as young people from Moldova, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Norway, Bulgaria and Romania were invited by UNICEF to be part of the solution.
An estimated 7.5 million young people in Europe (aged 15 to 24) (or 14 million 15-29) are not in education, employment or training (NEET). In Romania, approximately 16% of adolescents and young people are in this group. In Bulgaria, over 20% of young people are affected. Preventing young people from falling into this label is the most cost-effective intervention and can reduce long-term joblessness, which can permanently damage young people’s well-being, their careers and their health before they have even started out in the world of work.
It was a great opportunity for us to come and see if politicians are really thinking about these vulnerable young people. We are very happy that we have been invited to this event, but we will even happier when the right level of attention is finally paid to the excluded young people who are out of school, training or jobs. Our main concern is how do we ensure that priorities discussed by governments and experts are those that really matter for these young people, how do policy makers communicate with them?
One solution that was repeated by the speakers at the conference was Erasmus Plus program. Could this be a solution?
What is NEETs?
NEETs is about young people between 15-24 years, but Erasmus Plus is mostly for students, young people after 20 and that are in education, what to do with those out of education and with those younger than 20 that cannot apply for Erasmus Plus?
We heard just about Erasmus Plus as a solution. However, while we feel Erasmus Plus is a great tool, it is not a solution. After Erasmus Plus, no one can ensure that you will have decent job. It is a possibility that even after graduating and using Erasmus Plus program you can still become NEETs.
We agree that NEETs kills. NEET is a “wicked social problem” – difficult to define and tough to solve – but that’s no excuse for governments to avoid them!
Our question is: where are we meeting these people and where can we talk with them? At their home, on the streets, on line or…? The truth is that we do not know the answer and also we do not know how to communicate with them. This was a conference about them, but they weren’t there to say what they need and how they think we can change things.
In his interview with us, the Minister of Education of Romania mentioned that there will be a more participatory consultation with the NEETs soon, explaining that this conference was a more technical one.
We hope to hear more in the future from the young people labelled as NEET, and not just talk about them. In the end, we do consider that this conference was helpful in coming to conclusion that there is a group of young people that needs special attention. There is a group of young people who needs to be heard and taken into consideration when we are taking decisions for them.
We need to think big, start small and act now!