EU teaches youth wrong skills

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Brussels - Spain’s construction sector shrank by more than 60 percent during the economic crisis, yet universities kept churning out architects and engineers – the number has risen 174 percent since 2005.

That, according to research by management consultancy McKinsey & Company, exposes a critical source of Europe’s youth unemployment crisis: the education sector’s inability to respond quickly and reshape the workforce.

In a study published this week, based on a survey of 5 300 young Europeans, 2 600 employers and 700 technical schools, colleges and universities, McKinsey found a severe mismatch between graduates and the skills that businesses say they need.

That exacerbates youth unemployment, which averages about 25 percent across the euro zone and exceeds 50 percent in some countries, including Spain. It also harms growth, further denting Europe’s prospect of emerging from five years of turmoil.

“Policymakers, educators and business must all break out of their silos and work together more closely to avert what is a growing crisis,” the consultancy said in the report, adding that it was up to businesses to take the lead in pushing for change.

Europe’s policymakers have started to act. Last year, EU leaders established a so-called Youth Guarantee scheme, setting aside up to e8 billion (R117bn) to help provide jobs, apprenticeships, traineeships or further education to school leavers.

The scheme is based on programmes in Finland, Austria and Germany that have helped these countries achieve the lowest youth unemployment rates in Europe. While 50 percent of young Greeks are out of work, only 7.5 percent of German youths are.

“What

we need is better apprenticeship opportunities at lower costs,” said Mona Mourshed, a senior partner at McKinsey and co-author of the report, titled “Education to Employment: Getting Europe’s Youth into Work”.

While aware of the critical link between education and employers’ needs, the European Commission has struggled to shape policy in an area where national governments, not Brussels, bear the main responsibility.

With the euro zone and broader EU economy showing signs of recovery after years of low growth or recession, the moment is ripe to ensure that students learn the right skills for the jobs that will become available in the years ahead, the study says. – Martin Santa from Reuters


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