02 SES 05 C, Transitions: Apprenticeships, Learning and Sense of Self
This paper reports on research funded by the Irish Research Council with the aim of contributing to effective actions in response to the critical levels of youth unemployment in Europe in the wake of the recent Global Financial Crisis and the advent of austerity Europe. There has been little argument around the perilous position of young people in transition to first-time employment in the context that has evolved in the wake of the 2008-09 Global Financial Crisis (GFC) (O'Higgins 2012). Even before the GFC, the youth unemployment rate across the European Union was persistently well in excess of the overall unemployment rate but by 2008 the youth unemployment rate across the OECD was creeping towards three times the adult rate (Scarpetta et al. 2010). Since 2010 the overall employment rate for young people fell three times as much as the adult rate and, at the time of writing (late 2014), the European Commission reports an unemployment rate of 23.4 per cent in the EU-28 area. One in five young Europeans who wish to work cannot find a job and in certain contexts, notably Greece and Spain, one in two young people cannot find a job. By contrast, the youth unemployment rate in Germany is measured at 7.7 per cent (European Commission 2014). In summary, the report notes that 7.5 million Europeans aged between 15 and 24 are neither employed, nor in education or training.
In response to what has been argued to be a crisis context, the European Commission recommended direct action on youth employment, resulting in the recommendation to establish a Youth Guarantee which was adopted by the Commission in April 2013. The Youth Guarantee is a structural reform for the mid to long term and involves a commitment by Member States all young people under the age of 25 that promises an offer of a ‘good-quality’ job, apprenticeship or some other form of continued education within four-months of leaving school or becoming unemployed (ec.europa.eu). In this, the Commission took the view that effective vocational education and training systems and particularly those with strong work-based learning components facilitate the transition of young people from education to employment: apprenticeship schemes are to be ‘spread across’ member states. In this, policy makers frequently look towards the German dual system and transition supports for guidance yet here concerns focus on the nature of the employment post-transition: there has been a dramatic shift towards precarious employment in the German context (McKay et al. 2012). Appropriately, briefing documents acknowledge ‘different starting points’ in that apprenticeship systems reflect the historical and contemporary ‘collection of conditions’ (Foucault 1971) within which the apprenticeship system develops. The research project on which this paper draws is the first phase of an integrated study that proposes a genealogy of apprenticeship in five youth transition regimes (Walther 2006): liberal (Ireland and the UK); sub-protective (Italy); universal (Finland) and employment centered (Germany).
European Commission (2014) EU measures to tackle youth unemployment. (Belgium, European Commission). Foucault, M. (1971) ‘Nietzsche, genealogy, history’. IN P. Rabinow and N. Rose (eds). The essential Foucault. (New York, The NewPress). McKay, S., Jefferys, S., Paraksevopoulou, A., Keles, J. (2012) Study on precarious work and social rights. (London, Working Lives Research Institute). O'Higgins, N. (2012) This time it's different? Youth labour markets during 'the Great Recession'. (Bonn, Institute for the Study of Labour). Raffe, D. (2014) ‘Explaining national differences in education-work transitions’. European Societies, 16(2): 175-93. Scarpetta, S. and Sonnett, A. (2012) ‘Investing in skills to foster youth employability – What are the key policy challenges’? Intereconomics. (Paris, OECD) Walther, A. (2006) ‘Regimes of youth transitions’. Young, 14(2): 119–139.
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