YouthSpark’s footprint in Europe. Getting youth job-ready!

The jobs crisis is the most defining issue facing European youth today but there are viable solutions coming forward, often led by youth themselves but that require sustained leadership and innovative support from business to ensure a successful transition into employment.

Nearly all EU member states have made youth-specific recommendations through the Youth Employment Initiative as part of the Youth Employment Package. Industry has a critical window to create partnership solutions to this challenge with educators, business partners and the nonprofit sector that will in the long-term feed into their own talent strategy and ensure wider economic success by supporting the next generation. Since the launch of our YouthSpark journey one year ago, 17 million people across the 28 EU member states have benefitted from Microsoft tools, training and placement opportunities helping them imagine and realize their potential.

As the digital economy holds proven opportunities for youth where jobs are otherwise lacking, varied impactful models are being deployed by Microsoft YouthSpark in local communities across Europe to transform education practices with new technology, embed STEM more firmly into the education process, drive digital training and professional traineeships that will prepare youth for the job market and develop entrepreneurial mindsets and tools for youth. To quote just one inspirational example, the Microsoft Innovation Centre in Belgium hosts final year students for a few months from two local education institutions where they work collaboratively under supervision to support start-up companies on digital projects. The recent publication of Quality Jobs for Young People by one of our prominent European partners, the European Youth Forum (YFJ), is an interesting reflection on the conditions for quality and stable employment that European youth face in the long-term.

In line with this critical momentum and integral to our youth initiatives, we have firmly turned our attention to new labor market entry tools for youth, namely quality apprenticeships and internships. Microsoft became the first company to sign the European Charter for Quality Internships and Apprenticeships, and pledged to help provide an early career lever for European youth by scaling the number of high quality apprenticeships and internships we support by 50% over 3 years at the European Commission’s Grand Coalition for Digital Jobs.

To build on this expertise and facilitated by CSR Europe, Microsoft and YFJ are leading a multi-stakeholder skills for jobs campaign on the topic of quality school-to-work transitions. The objective is to develop a learning network of companies to test & provide critical feedback on the European Charter on Quality Internships and Apprenticeships. This has also formed part of our contribution to the newly launched European Alliance on Apprenticeships. Marking our collective progress and encouraging further business to business constructive engagement in preparing youth for quality jobs, you can join us in the Parliament on November 14th just ahead of the release of the European Commission’s Quality Framework for Traineeships… Looking ahead, YouthSpark will continue to address the right skills, quality transition to the labour market and civic engagement of Europe’s youth!

Stay tuned for more news but in the meantime read about our commitment to creating youth opportunities in our recent global 2013 Citizenship Report.

About the Author

Senior Director of EU Institutional Relations

Afke Schaart worked for Microsoft from 2013 to 2015 as the Senior Director for EU Institutional Relations. She is a former member of the Dutch Parliament for the Liberal Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD).