The European Youth Week 2015 inaugurated its closing event with an opportunity for young people to meet policy makers to discuss with them ideas on how to tackle youth unemployment, boost youth entrepreneurship, be active in civic life and engage in international development issues.
Throughout the whole week of activities, young people participated in several workshops during which they were invited to discuss together in relation to the themes chosen for the European Youth Week (EYW). These focused around young peoples’ participation in civic life and also highlighting young peoples’ employability, generating ideas for initiatives that could be taken up by the local Government and the EU Parliament to increase the quality of life of young people around the EU.
During this process, around 200 young people from different age groups and backgrounds contributed several ideas that are extremely relevant for them, and would allow Maltese and European young people better opportunities for growth and development. These proposals, as well as those brought forward today, are a clear indication that young people are willing to contribute to society as a whole, and are an invaluable resource that needs to be nurtured to ensure the sustainability of development in all aspects of society.
The local EYW activities were held during this week at different locations where young people gather, ranging from LEAP Centres, to educational institutions, and Youth.Inc, so that the ideas generated reflected the thoughts of young people coming from all over Malta and Gozo. Those present discussed the skills and strengths young people have to offer, the challenges young people face, and came up with suggestions on how improvements can be made to better the quality of life for young people.
The young people who participated were mostly concerned with the possibility of finding opportunities for expressing their skills and creativity, both in civic life and also in employment. While they know that they can contribute to society and are also responsible for its development in future years, they feel that the educational system remains oriented towards academic achievement alone, which, while important, is not the sole indicator of successful education.
Students and young people feel that not enough importance is given to other forms of education, such as non-formal learning (learning by doing), and that this should be given more weight in the formative process for young people. They are concerned that the options for young people are limited, as they struggle to find opportunities in their area of study or work, that do not already require a number of months or years of experience in the field. In fact, they deem that opportunities for mentoring, placements and internships in all fields of practice should be an integral part of the educational system, and that young people who are offered and make use of such opportunities can be inspirational to their peers.
They are also aware that young people struggle to find guidance or opportunities that will help them to better their options, and that oftentimes, they have little opportunity to prove themselves and show that they can adhere to a high standard of practice, and are often discouraged when their creativity is suppressed in favour of more traditional approaches. Young people believe that diversity is an opportunity for innovation, and that by being active in participation, they can collaborate together for the benefit of other young people in the EU.
Taking direct examples from the recommendations that came from young people from different backgrounds, suggestions related to the four categories represented in the European Youth Week:
While this process has been going on locally during the week, Maltese young people were also being represented in Brussels by Ms. Kayrin Gauci. Ms. Gauci was part of a team of Maltese Young people (a few of whom are present with us today) who came together to work on the topics presented by the EU Commission as part of the Ideas Lab process that has been going on across the EU in the past few months. The Maltese team presented an idea for the creation of a web platform that would allow young people all over Europe to access opportunities “on-the-go”, based upon their interests. It would allow more young people to become more aware of opportunities for employment as well as being expanded to include opportunities for leisure and personal development.