Apprenticeships: A proven model for European Youth?

Companies used to try to bridge that gap themselves by investing in training; today they do so less. Peter Capelli, Wharton business school, makes the point that companies see filling a job merely like buying a spare part: you expect it to fit.  The domino effect of the skills gap & staggering youth unemployment means that we are facing “Perhaps the most pressing European problem”, according to German Chancellor, Angela Merkel.

There is a viable bridge that is starting to change this trend and one that Microsoft is exploring through various YouthSpark initiatives.  Apprenticeships are trailblazing in countries such as Germany and Denmark and It doesn’t go unnoticed that there is a proven and correlated lower rate of youth unemployment in these countries. As momentum & impact has started to pick up, I particularly welcome that the European Commission has explicitly referenced  apprenticeships in the Youth Employment Initiative and the recent communication published to the European Council on 19th June “Working together for Europe’s young people – A call to action on youth unemployment” which stresses once more that combating youth unemployment is a top priority.

The potential of digital skills to drive more European youth into jobs is huge with 900,000 ICT related vacancies forecast by 2015, this is the engine behind our extensive YouthSpark programmes available in Europe and where we can really make an impact on the job prospects of European youth who find themselves twice as likely as their parents to be unemployed. Having deployed and scaled dual-learning solutions to train young people for specific industry demands, we are proud to be directly contributing to this critical youth challenge with effective skills & training provision.

Our youth outreach solicited the attention of DG Education & Culture who approached us to pledge at the launch of the ‘European Alliance on Apprenticeships’ in Leipzig earlier this month, an initiative stemming from the Youth Employment Package.  This was based on the expertise Microsoft can provide through scalable quality apprenticeship programs being deployed in countries such as in the UK Get On & the Talent Gap Initiative we are leading in Germany. Our commitment here is also part of a joint and growing initiative with the European Youth Forum, as the first corporate signatory of their European Charter on Quality Internships and Apprenticeships Microsoft is working with YFJ to develop a learning network of companies on the topic of quality school-to-work transitions.

This is a truly exciting milestone that builds on our commitment at the Grand Coalition for Digital Jobs, to help drive more European youth into digital jobs by increasing the number of high quality apprenticeships and internships we support by 50% over 3 years. As an example of how various countries are shaping new opportunities for youth based on this platform:

  • In the UK alone, Microsoft through its Get On’ youth employability initiative has placed 3,700 apprentices with its business partners since the launch at the end of 2009 & is set to scale. Apprentices are placed as systems integrators and software developers, through its new Partner Apprenticeship programme. It is designed for and developed by Microsoft Partners to help bring new talent into the industry and develop ICT skills in the UK. The programme is fully supported by National Apprenticeship Service, Skills Funding Agency and awarding bodies such as City & Guilds.

Microsoft Germany also launched the very successful Talent Gap Initiative FIT at the end of 2012, designed so that its business partners are running training programs that aim to prepare 450 apprentices for jobs over the next three years around different themes.  Each business partner determines how many trainees it would like to hire and Microsoft proposes candidates for them to choose to hire.  Microsoft also designs the training course and partly funds the programme enabling SME’s to access young talent.

Pushing the boundaries of the Microsoft European YouthSpark initiative, we believe this to be an exciting and critical step to empower European youth in their transition to the labour market!

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