The European Pact for Youth was launched in Brussels this week at an event attended by European employment, social affairs, skills and labour mobility Commissioner Marianne Thyssen, European Parliament President Martin Schulz and Philippe, King of the Belgians. There were also several CEOs from leading companies present.
The Pact aims to combine industry, government and education to combat youth unemployment. Marianne Thyssen underlined that, "with 4.5 million young people looking for work, youth unemployment remains one of the most pressing challenges in the EU today."
"The European Commission fully supports this initiative, as it complements our own initiatives at EU level through the youth guarantee and the youth employment initiative", she said. The Belgian official added that, "already, these are starting to show encouraging results. Over the last year, youth unemployment has decreased by 500,000."
However, she cautioned that, "still - across Europe - far too many young people cannot find a job or are working in jobs that don't match their talents and aspirations and struggling to build independent lives. At the same time, one in four employers report difficulties in finding people with the right skills; there are two million unfilled vacancies across the European Union."
"We need to create quality jobs, but also to ensure that people have the right skills to fill them. That's why next year, the European Commission will launch a new skills agenda for Europe," she announced.
Thyssen explained that, "this agenda will focus on actions to increase skills, employability and entrepreneurship. We will seek to improve the recognition and portability of qualifications. And we will develop tools to better anticipate skills needs, so that job seekers and potential employers find each other faster on the labour market and training providers can develop programmes to respond to emerging trends and regional specialisms."
"Europe's competitiveness relies on a successful marriage between innovative businesses and a highly skilled and productive workforce."
The Commissioner told the audience, "I see today's initiative as a strong sign that you, businesses, want to be part of the solution; to help all young people fulfil their potential and contribute to a strengthened Europe. As businesses, you know the value of a skilled workforce. You recognise the importance of investing in people. This is what the European Pact for Youth is about."
"As the Pact develops and grows, I hope we can develop even more ambitious targets. We rely on your proactive spirit, knowledge and expertise in taking this forward. Business is in the driving seat, but the European Commission is fully engaged. We will work with you to support your efforts as part of our shared commitment to helping more young people progress into good jobs and rewarding careers."
"This is the Europe I believe in: committed to focussing on getting things done and to working in partnership to make positive change in people's lives", said Thyssen.
A number of industry representatives also spoke, with Solvay CEO Jean-Pierre Clamadieu saying, "we feel as business and as people a moral obligation to help make sure that younger generations will integrate into society, and there is no great tool for integration that a good job and opportunities."
Lifang Chen, corporate senior Vice-President of Huawei, highlighted that, "at Huawei, we believe that over the next two decades we will enter the digital society - one of the most important developments of the last 1000 years; the young people of today are the first generation of the digital age."
"The most talented among them will become thought leaders, strategy leaders and technology leaders. How can we help them gain more knowledge and improve their skills?" she asked.
Chen presented various initiatives Huawei has been undertaking for the past few years in order to help young people. The first of these is 'Seeds for the Future', the company's "flagship corporate social responsibility programme. We have implemented it in 57 countries, with around 1500 participants from over 150 universities, including Oxford and Cambridge."
"It gives students the opportunity to visit and study at Huawei's headquarters in China, to train with experts and become familiar with cutting edge technology. It also allows them to experience Chinese culture and broaden their horizons", she explained.
Chen also talked about the "Huawei innovation and research programme (HIRP), launched in Europe in 2010. This has now established partnerships with 120 universities and research and cultural institutes. Through this programme, we have funded 107 research projects this year, on topics such as cloud computing, media technology and cyber security."
Chen concluded her address by saying Huawei was, "honoured to support the European Pact for Youth. We will continue to help young people gain more skills and create more jobs and opportunities for the next generations. We hope Seeds for the Future will inspire more young people to contribute to the information society."
Following various panel discussions, where the audience heard from young people currently benefiting from traineeships in large companies, Philippe, King of the Belgians joined a number of young people onstage to demonstrate his support for the Pact.