Value does not wait for the number of years we age to

One of the most inspiring parts of my job at Microsoft is that I get to meet some of the most talented and creative people in Europe every day that are building the Europe of tomorrow. A recent example of that was just a couple of weeks ago, in Dublin when I was invited to speak and drive a debate on how to lead the way to ‘Driving Digital Jobs in Europe’ – as a leading example of our commitment to youth in each and every EU Presidency country.

60 young ambassadors, from countries hardest hit by youth unemployment in Europe came together in Dublin to build innovative ideas and the reason I bring the unemployment factor up is dead simple. The one and only reason we were brought together in one place that day was not just for fun, it was also to explore a number of critical challenges faced by young people in Europe right now in terms of their access to the labour market & quality employment opportunities. We cannot afford to allow this generation to be excluded from our economy in such a sustained manner without implications on all Europeans in the future. This initiative put in question the design of youth employability initiatives that work and drew from the evolving expertise of Microsoft’s sustained YouthSpark platform in order to feed directly into the work of the EU Digital Agenda Assembly (DAA) and the Grand Coalition for Digital Jobs – which are leading EU initiatives that aim to address the ICT skills gap and the projected shortfall of 900,000 ICT professionals in Europe by 2015.

Let’s face the facts. Young people have been hit particularly hard by the crisis. At present, nearly 6 million people in Europe under the age of 25 are unemployed.. Youth unemployment rates in Europe stood at 23.5% in the first quarter of 2013, more than twice the – already very high – rate for the population at large. In some countries, more than half of the young people who want to work are unemployed. With that in mind, the European Commission recently published a contribution for the next European Council. One of these contributions, Working together for Europe’s young people , A call to action on youth unemployment reaffirmed that ‘’success will depend on the political will of the Member States and the capacity of the private sector to create opportunities for young people’’ Clearly companies are being called forward like never before to speed up disruptive innovation in the market based on youth engagement.

And we are taking up the challenge.. I want to share with you one of the great talents we had the opportunity to discuss and work with during this workshop, which definitely confirms: “Value does not wait for the number of years we age to”.

Tiago Fernandes, from Portugal, a student entrepreneur and a computer engineering graduate, in third PhD year at Porto University shared with participants his unique digital path. He developed a Windows phone application called Taggeo www.taggeo.org that allows you to leave your text and images on a given place, making it visible to the whole world or just to friends. For example, it allows you to get feedback on a restaurant by looking for public tags (or your friend’s tags) left on that very same location. It was great to know that throughout the process of building this app, Tiago received Microsoft DreamSpark & Microsoft mentoring support to bring his ideato life. Important to note, this year in April, Tiago won the Innovation award at one of the greatest Tech competitions on the planet, the Imagine Cup, and he will now represent Portugal in the Imagine Cup in St Petersburg on July 11th.

An inspiring story that gives us just a small taster of the potential that Digital Jobs hold! But that’s not all. We also had insightful speeches on stage from two great digital champions.

Lord David Puttnam, former Film Producer of ‘Chariots of Fire’ and “Bugsy Malone” came to give a shaking speech on the ever-growing need to reformat, resize and reset our educational system. A subject that he is incredibly passionate about and has been for more than 30 years. By comparing Europe’s situation to some of the growing countries in Asia, Lord David Puttnam signaled the alarm bell and stated that there is “an urgent need to accelerate our ICT learning capacity, and address the whole challenge of ‘learning to learn’ through the use of advanced technology.” He then added: “I’ve long been suggesting to just about anyone who’ll listen that what’s required to drive educational improvement is a second, far more radical approach – we need to consider what a major, positive and creative ‘disruption’ in teaching and learning might look like.” Lord David Putnam’s speech was then closely followed by Bernard Dunne, a retired professional boxer and Former WBA Ordinary Super Bantamweight World Champion as well as European Super Bantamweight Champion. You might wonder… What on earth was Bernard Dunne doing at a Microsoft event?

Well…That’s an easy question! Bernard is also the new Youth2Work national ambassador in Ireland, which is an initiative spearheaded by Microsoft and Fast track to IT www.fit.ie, that will train over 10,000 young unemployed people over the next 3 years on ICT skills. Starting off with no digital skills, Bernard is the public figure that is championing the recently launched Youth2Work initiative and he is currently completing a mobile technology course. Bernard Dunne is definitely an inspiration for all of us! After years of battles and victories, Bernard Dunne wasn’t afraid to take chances, move to another career path with a proven demand for talent and learn how to code and be challenged, yet again after being a Champion for so many years.

Later in the day, the 60 young and sparkling talents came together in a Youthspark Workshop to discuss ideas and come up with recommendations to policy makers, business organisations and civil society as a whole. After asking Four Digital Champions to share their recommendations with the outside world on video here, (click if you want to VOTE for any of them) we grounded the final recommendations here.

This was a very hopeful and productive workshop. We discussed practical and viable solutions to invigorate Europe’s drive to digital jobs and address the ‘how’ of implementing the European Commission’s Youth Guarantee framework. We look forward to continuing the conversation now that Lithuania has taken the lead of the EU Presidency, and when Greece follows in six months’ time – as we will re-iterate the experience for every up-coming EU presidencies. I look forward to seeing impact in all Member States and the European Commission as we pursue this ambitious, but much needed agenda to help youth realize their opportunities.