The conference “EYE CON” (Empowering youth for employment) was organised as a part of the project “Empowering Youth for Employment” implemented by the National Youth Council of Macedonia (NYCM) and supported by the British Embassy in Skopje.
The aim of the conference was to provide space for sharing practices and innovative model for increasing the employability of young people in Europe. According to several reports from EU, World Bank, International Labour Organisation, Macedonia has one of the highest rates of youth unemployment in Europe and is suffering from severe brain-drain. Similarly, in Macedonia, youth employment is not treated as “serious enough” and NYCM faces obstacles when trying to campaign on this area.My participation in the event had a central purpose, to support National Youth Council of Macedonia in normalising discussions around youth employment and sharing best practice from BYC and its member organisations on how to campaign on this topic.
The first panel session of this conference centered around the thematic area of ‘Youth Employment in Macedonia’ and asked the question – what should we strive for?
Guest speakers on this area included the British Embassy representative in Macedonia and the President of NYCM. Key messages from this discussion was that youth development must be prioritised by the government and interested international fields, whilst young people should be encouraged to have their independence when choosing their future career. Guest speakers were requested to share their views about youth employment, their organisations strategy to combat youth employment and what recommendation they would have for Macedonia and its crisis.
Myself as a representative of BYC, shaped my speech under three headlines. BYC has several campaigns that either directly or indirectly contribute to reduction of youth employment. The first method BYC has campaigned is by improving young people’s job opportunity through education. Secondly, BYC has worked hard by encouraging employable circumstances for young people. Lastly, BYC condemns that young people should be supported whilst at work. BYC has contributed to the first category via encouraging PSHE education, pushing for career advisors and enable all young people the ability to have access to work experiences.
Similarly, BYC believes that employable circumstances must be made by non-governmental organisations, helping young people on how to develop their CV, enable them to volunteer and necessary training to have successful interviews.
Lastly, BYC condemns that young people should be protected from abuse during workplace. Therefore, campaigns such as “rise minimum wage” and encouraging “living wage” has been its focus. My message on behalf of BYC and its member organisations to NYCM was to fight for a society that enables young people to decide for their own career and can live in their own home country when they are qualified, rather than being pushed out due to lack of jobs.
Several questions were asked by the audience. One audience member asked about how to make work-experiences adaptable to their society and how can young people from minority groups be protected from this. My answer regarding on work-experience was to enable “compulsory attendance” for a work experience during high school period. This allows all young people to try out their aspiring job and consider if it really suites them. Regarding on minorities, I suggested NYCM and youth activists to push for a change in legislation that makes it an obligation for minorities to be prioritised when applying for jobs or even being supported in their workplace.
The aim of second panel was to focus into what is internally needed to reduce youth unemployment in these areas. NYCM made a list of recommendations to achieve this aim:
- Greater collaboration of the institutions with National Youth Council of Macedonia and other civil society organizations and establishing partnerships in the processes of creating youth employment policies and other youth policies
- The Education system in Macedonia needs to be reformed and adapted to comply with current and future needs of the labour market
- Greater societal value of the work of youth organizations because they present crucial resource that offer employability skills for young people
- Guaranteed participation of youth organizations in ministerial and sectorial working groups for youth unemployment
- Creating solutions for collaboration with institutions based on the existing positive practices of National Youth Councils across Europe
- Private sector and companies should create job positions that relate to the profile of young people
- Private sector and companies should connect directly with students by establishing companies educational centre or fellowship programs.
- Private sector and companies to establish collaboration with organizations by creating joint activities aimed to increase employability skills of young people
- Greater value and acknowledge of the skills and competences gain through non-formal education which are key for successful transition from education to employment
- Raising the level of understanding of young people of their rights to avoid to be abused by their employees.
- Greater level of youth information for existing opportunities for development of young people
- Schools, universities, institutions and youth organizations shall work on increasing the level of motivation of young people to participate in opportunities for their development.
- Young people shall always receive financial compensation for their engagement with companies on various ways.
- Institutions shall increase its monitoring activities on the working condition of young people
- Various stakeholders should conduct research to obtain information on the percentage of young people with employment contacts longer than 6 months
- Institutions shall implement all international conventions and agreements where Macedonia is signatory party
Overall, the aim of this conference was to remove the stigma around this area and encourage discussions on what approach works best. Youth unemployment should not be under-estimated and it should not be left until adulthood to be tackled.