The education and employment prospects of Romania’s young people will be the focus of a visit to Bucharest next week by Androulla , European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth. On 10 March, the Commissioner will address an event organised by the Ministry of National Education and the European Commission on tackling the challenges faced by ‘NEETs’ (young people not in employment, education or training). The following day, she will launch Erasmus+, the EU’s new funding programme for education, training, youth and sport, which will provide grants for 120 000 Romanians to study, train, gain work experience or volunteer abroad over the next seven years – 50% more than under previous EU programmes. The Commissioner will also visit Roma projects in the capital with Hungarian-born philanthropist George Soros, a long-time campaigner for Roma rights (see separate release).
Speaking ahead of her visit, Commissioner Vassiliou commented: “As in many other European countries, the youth unemployment figures in Romania are deeply worrying and represent a huge waste of human talent. Despite some recent progress, the share of low achievers in reading, maths and science and early school leavers in Romanian schools is very high and this only exacerbates the NEETs problem. Education and training systems need to promote supportive learning environments, focusing on the needs of individual pupils, and to urgently address skills mismatches.
“Our new Erasmus+ programme will help the most vulnerable young people, including those in a NEET situation. By offering opportunities for non-formal learning mobility, for example through the European Voluntary Service, Erasmus+ will strengthen young people’s self-confidence, help them find their way and most importantly reinforce their skills,” added the Commissioner.
Romania will receive nearly €52million in 2014 from Erasmus+, an increase of 11% compared with the funding it received last year from the former Lifelong Learning and Youth in Action Programmes. The level of funding will increase each year between now and 2020. Romania can also benefit from Jean Monnet grants for European integration studies in higher education and for transnational projects in sport.
Between 2007 and 2013, around 80 000 Romanian students, young people and education, training and youth staff received grants from the EU’s former Lifelong Learning and Youth in Action programmes, which have been replaced by Erasmus+
Erasmus+ is being launched at a time when 26 million people across Europe are currently unemployed, including nearly 6 million young people. The youth unemployment rate in Romania is over 23%, with 185 000 registered as out of work.
At the same time, there are over 2 million job vacancies across Europe, and a third of employers report difficulties in recruiting staff with the skills they need.
Erasmus+ will help to address this skills gap by providing opportunities for 4 million people to study, train, gain work experience or volunteer abroad. Giving young people this opportunity also makes it more likely they will want, or be able, to work abroad in future, thus increasing their long-term job prospects.
The budget for Erasmus+ over the next seven years is €14.7 billion – 40% more than under the previous programmes in 2007-2013. Each Member State will see substantial increases in funding over the life of the programme.
As well as supporting mobility opportunities for individuals, Erasmus+ will increase the quality and relevance of Europe’s education, training and youth systems through support for the training of education staff and youth workers, as well as stronger partnerships between education and employers.
The €14.7 billion budget takes account of future estimates for inflation. Additional funds are expected to be allocated for higher education exchanges and administrative support involving non-EU countries; the decision on the amounts of extra funding available is due to be confirmed later in 2014.
Erasmus+ for the first time includes support for sport. It will allocate around €265 million over seven years to help address cross-border threats such as match fixing and doping. It will also support transnational projects involving organisations in grassroots sport, promoting, for example, good governance, gender equality, social inclusion, dual careers and physical activity for all.
Who benefits from Erasmus+?
- 2 million higher education students will be able to study or train abroad, with 450 000 traineeships available;
- 650 000 vocational students and apprentices will receive grants to study, train or work abroad;
- 800 000 teachers, trainers, education staff and youth workers will teach or train abroad;
- 200 000 Master’s degree students doing a full course in another country will benefit from loan guarantees;
- More than 25 000 students will receive grants for joint Master’s degrees, which involve studying in at least two higher education institutions abroad;
- More than 500 000 young people will be able to volunteer abroad or participate in youth exchanges;
- 125 000 schools, vocational education and training institutions, higher and adult education institutions, youth organisations and enterprises will receive funding to set up 25 000 ‘strategic partnerships’ to promote the exchange of experience and links with the world of work;
- 3 500 education institutions and enterprises will get support to create more than 300 ‘Knowledge Alliances’ and ‘Sector Skills Alliances’ to boost employability, innovation and entrepreneurship;
- 600 transnational partnerships in sport, including European non-profit events, will also receive funding.
NEETs (Young people not in employment, education or training)
According to the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions (Eurofound), some 14 million young people aged 15-29 are not in employment, education or training. The effects of sustained inactivity include risk of poverty, social exclusion or alienation from society. The economic costs of this situation are estimated at €160 billion per year or 1.3% of EU GDP.
An EU study shows that youth work can help young people build the skills and confidence they need to improve social participation, prevent exclusion and increase job prospects.
Early school leavers
The Europe 2020 strategy set a headline target to bring down the share of early school leavers to below 10% by 2020. In Romania, the number of early school leavers was 17.4% in 2012, against a European average of 12.8% and a national target of 11.3% (see IP/13/324).
The latest PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) report by the OECD on the maths, science and reading skills of 15 year olds revealed that Romania is far below the EU’s 2020 target for reducing the percentage of low achievers to below 15%. The levels in Romania are 37.3% for reading, 40.8% for maths and 37.3% for science (see IP/13/1198).