“Do the competences and skills obtained through non-formal education activities in youth organizations contribute to the employability of young people?”
This was the main topic of the study the European Youth Forum conducted in cooperation with the University of Bath and GHK Consulting. More than 1300 young people from over 245 youth organizations based in more than 40 European countries took part in a survey, while qualitative workshops and interviews were conducted with employers and relevant stakeholders in order to obtain data for creating the study. European Federation for Intercultural Learning (EFIL), the umbrella organization for AFS in Europe, also took part in this survey and invited its members to give their contributions. The topic of the study was of particular interest for AFS, seeing that this organization provides non-formal learning opportunities both for its program participants and volunteers, who are often from the age group covered by the study.
The study found that there is indeed a strong positive correlation between involvement in youth organizations & non-formal education and the employment possibilities for young people.
The study concluded that five of the six skills most frequently demanded by employers are developed in youth organizations. These soft skills are often seen as key elements of successful job performance and they include:
- communication skills,
- organizational or planning skills,
- decision-making skills,
- confidence or autonomy, and
- team work.
The study also reported that the more involved people are in youth organizations and the higher level of formal education they have, the higher skill levels they will develop. Participation in non-formal education outside their home country brought young people even higher levels of development of some competences, especially in relation to intercultural communication, foreign languages and leadership skills. Many young people are aware that such opportunities lead to personal growth, even though this can be further enhanced by the existence of an assessment or strategic plan for skill development within the organization.
Employers also have a positive attitude towards young people’s experience in youth organizations. They perceive the youth sector as offering a pool of specialist skills and say that involvement in such organizations is a good indicator of a person’s motivation level and potential to fit in with the new company. A background in non-formal education activities is especially important for young people with less work experience, particularly with regard to the number and type of previous involvements in the field.
A few things that are important to note are that a special emphasis is put on the way and timeliness of presenting the skills and competences acquired during the participation in youth work, which is an area where there is still room for improvement. Also, youth organizations need to brand themselves better to employers, who are insufficiently aware of what is happening in the youth sector, which makes some employers mistrust the information presented about the involvement in youth organizations by job seekers.
An added value of youth work is the opportunity for young people to create social capital, networks and connections, which can aid in obtaining information about employment possibilities, and broaden the range of possible occupations and geographical locations where young people would consider working.
The study strongly recommends investing in non-formal education. It particularly stresses that the quality of non-formal education and the accessibility of it to more young people, on top of increased mobility, are core factors influencing the employability of young people. The findings of this study are significant for AFSers around the world, as they comply with the organization’s educational goals, which aim at developing personal and interpersonal skills as well as intercultural knowledge and global issues awareness. Through their exchange experience, sojourners and volunteers alike have the opportunity to develop higher levels of intercultural competences and leadership skills, which prove to be beneficial for their future careers. You can read the full study or its executive summary for more information.