The EESC agrees with the Commission on the need to change the rules of the Parliament and of the Council on the European Social Fund and the Structural Funds, but regrets that the funds for the Initiative for Youth Employment do not result from a strengthening of the EU budget but are taken from the overall budget for cohesion. The Committee is also convinced that the foreseen amount, i.e. € 6 billion, is insufficient given the magnitude of the problem and the urgency to solve it. Finally, the Committee reiterates that the maximum age giving access to the Youth Guarantee should be increased to 30 years to cover for people who are still in a transition phase from education to employment.
The EESC welcomes the Youth Employment Package. It recommends, whenever possible, the age limit for access to the scheme be increased to 30, to cover young people who leave university later or those who are still in a transition phase from education to employment and are still at risk of losing contact with the labour market. There is also need to improve the conditions for offering traineeships and ensure their quality.
The EESC recommends that the European Commission and the Member States support further studies and research that would tap the potential of gifted children and young people, aiming to facilitate employment and employability within the framework of the EU and, in a context of economic crisis, enhance specialist knowledge and prevent brain drain. It also recommends that greater consideration be given to each Member State's existing models for and experience in working with highly gifted children, and presents various proposals aimed at improving educational care for children and young people with high abilities.
The EESC considers that this issue needs to be analysed very thoroughly and placed within an EU framework taking into consideration the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality. Special emphasis must be placed on empowering, informing and educating children, families and teachers. The EESC calls on advertisers and sponsors to adopt and apply the highest levels of protection of children's rights.
The EESC stresses the usefulness of the Youth Opportunities initiative and is ready to get involved in implementing the initiative by cooperating with the social partners and civil society organisations and through joint action with stakeholders to promote it. The EU's austerity policy and the lack of a clear and generally recognised growth policy could jeopardise the success of the Youth Opportunities initiative, therefore it is vital to create an appropriate economic and financial environment. The EESC emphasises the importance of appropriate education, training and careers advice and believes that it is appropriate to support first work experience and on-the-job training. Quality apprenticeships, placements in enterprises and traineeships are an important means for young people to acquire skills and work experience. The first job should guarantee a set of minimum employment standards. The creation of new high-quality jobs must remain a priority.
The EESC believes that the Erasmus for All Programme should be a key instrument for increasing support for education and training in order to enhance citizens' skills, help tackle the high levels of youth unemployment in many Member States, meet the need for qualified labour, and resolve skills mismatches. It is especially important to employ such an instrument at a time of economic crisis and negative repercussions on labour markets.
The own-initiative opinion aims to clarify how post-secondary vocational education and training (VET) can have an added value in terms of labour market, learning outcomes, opening new educational pathways and social mobility in the EU. Forecasts of future skills needs in the EU show an increasing demand for a labour force with medium and high level qualifications which puts pressure on upgrading current VET systems in Member States. The Committee calls upon the Commission to encourage Member States to achieve the long-term and short-term objectives set out in the Bruges Communiqué and to improve the quality and efficiency of VET so as to enhance its attractiveness and relevance. The social partners at all levels must continue to play an active role in the Copenhagen process and help attain the short-term deliverables.