A plea for a European apprenticeship
Strongly mobilized to fight against youth unemployment, MEP Jean ARTHUIS proposes the creation of a single European framework for apprenticeship, a real "highway" to employment, on the Erasmus model.
Europe often appears far away from our fellow citizens' preoccupations. If one of its aspects is likely to be put to the test, it is youth unemployment, a scandalous scourge that darkens our future.In 2014, more than 5,3 million youngsters were unemployed, that is to say an average of one out off our people under 25, if we except students. One out of two in some countries. Fortunately, this curse is not inevitable. In Germany, in Austria, in the Netherlands, countries where apprenticeship is strongly implemented, young people can much more easily enter the professional life. Of course, companies' competitiveness plays a decisive role on the global level, as well as in job opportunities offered to youngsters. But it also clearly appears that vocational training is the key to this success. And this type of formation, in times of globalisation, is enriched by trans-border mobility. This is the occasion to rise up to the linguistic challenge of long-term immersion stays.
Universities and European Grandes Écoles understood the usefulness of students and teachers exchanges. Adopted in 1987, the Erasmus program is a genuine success. It receives a subsidy from the European budget, increasing by 2 billion € per year. Close to 300 000 students, beneficiaries of a financial help, have been able to validate a year of their formation outside of their country of origin.It is fair, and imperative, to give the same opportunities to young people having chosen vocational training. In accordance with this spirit, the Leonardo Mobility program, which became Erasmus+ a year ago, has been conceived. It is accessible to both apprentices and students from vocational secondary schools, but the latter are facing various barriers. In these conditions, they are, most of the time, staying outside of their countries only for a few weeks long. This path is full of obstacles,and every one choosing it, proving their determination and ingenuity, is regretting how much of a pain it is to walk by. So much energy, so little sensible use for it!
Nevertheless, the Union “establishes a Single Market” and insures free mobility for people, goods,services and capital. Alas, these heroic declarations are disproved by a concrete wall made of bureaucracy, ideologies, conservatism, feebleness and withdrawal. National regulations and legislations are stubbornly stuck on their respective particularities. Vocational training falls victim from this situation: labour and apprenticeship contract regulation, accident and social insurances, security measures dictated by the “precautionary principle”, recognition of prior learning, equivalence of diplomas.
As apprenticeship is known as the “highway” to employment, it is urgent to bring all of these artificial barriers down, to allow the sharing of good practices, and to encourage youth mobility, without any discrimination between students, apprentices, and other interns in alternate training. To get to this point, we will have our “pilot project” validated. A single European framework for apprenticeship will be the first contribution to create a convergence of European labour regulations. A precious lever to get to full employment, and a decisive step towards a European citizenship.
Opinion published in the French daily Ouest-France.