Thank you for the invitation!
I am the member of the Committee of the Regions since October 2012 and the president of Harghita County Council from Romania. Today I represent Mr. Markku Markkula, the president of the European Committee of the Regions.
This conference raises a very important question, namely how can we support young people in self-employment?
Let me express my congratulations on the conclusions and proposals formulated on the topic of this conference. I am fully agree with these point of views and I am delighted to share it with my colleagues in CoR.
Worldwide there has been adopted a wide range of proposals in strengthening self-employment among the young people. While some of the policy makers consider tax reducing or providing specific financial supports are the best practices, others swear on providing assistance in the early stage of start-up businesses or grow the network of business advisors.
Indeed, these initiatives are very important in the motivation of young people to start their own businesses – to go on solo, but there is one thing which represents the basic of our today’s topic, that is entrepreneurial education.
As the member of the Committee of Regions and the rapporteur on the subject of Implementation of the renewed framework for European cooperation in the youth field (2010-2018), among the high importance of entrepreneurial education, I would like to emphasize the role of regional and local governments regarding the self-employment of young people. We need to take measures on local level, to improve local coordination and ensure young self-employed people.
There are many practices to strengthen the self-employment of young people to talk about, so according to the limited amount of time to cover this topic, let me focus on one thing and speak about the importance of entrepreneurial education:
First of all, the interest and potential of young people to become entrepreneurs needs to be strongly helped by fostering entrepreneurial mindsets and attitudes in education and training. Our current education needs support if it’s going to adapt to challenges such as labour market mismathes: inadequate skills or wages. In order to provide an effective answer to these challenges entrepreneurship education has to be involved more and more into the education system, not only in secondary and higher education, but also in higher education, at universities, colleges or trough vocational trainings.
We need to focus on soft and core skills, including problem-solving, team-building, social and civic competences or initiative taking. In addition, if we want to see more entrepreneurship, we need to create a culture in our education system where entrepreneurial learning is important. High schools and technical schools should be one of the most important beneficiaries of this. Young people who receive vocational education need practical and entrepreneurial skills, becasuse of the greater mobility of their skillset. This is especially important in the case of Eastern European countries facing with the problem of braindrain, constantly loosing its young talented people with high professional skill because of the low wages compared with Nothern states. Strenghtening self-employment through education would be a solution regarding the labour market situation of NEETs young people ( who are not in education, employment or training). In a wider context in order to change this tendency, the creation and the development of an entrepreneurial culture in education system would be one of the many solution to this problem.
In connection with this I would like to highlight the importance of strengthening self-employment in rural areas. There is no need to emphasize the potential of rural entrepreneurship. Young people living in rural environment have a strong desire to learn how they can establish or to improve their own entrepreneurship in order to create better living conditions. Just think about the agriculture domain, which is one of the most significant domain in terms of market and business potential. Young people already acquire and develop skills in traditional agriculture from early childhood. They already have all the professional skills needed, they just need a motivation, a push from „outside”: proper education and training programs in order to acquire organizational and management skill and to start their own business. According to this, strategies targeting rural development have to include trainings for young people to raise their motivation in self-employment by the education of practical business skills.
Two factors are worth to take into consideration: INFORMATION flow and EDUCATION.
First of all, young people have to have knowledge about their opportunities in starting a business (e.g. EU funds) and secondly, further programs should focus on acquiring actual skills in different domains, such as business management, project management or marketing strategy. Those students who are willing to try to get on their own feet and start their own business should get the opportunity to work on a daily basis with similar entrepreneurs, who can teach them what to do and how to do to it. So it should be to revised the existing teaching plan and should be introduced these kind of practical learning courses too.
Having in consideration the fact that one of the biggest problems Europe faces with is youth unemployment, especially in rural areas, it would be the biggest mistake not to focus on the self-employment of these young people.
In addition those with strong business ideas should be encouraged to develop plans and develop their business on the side once in work.
In order to strength self-employment and combat unemployment among young people in Europe it is crucial to synchronize not only the activity of different decision making bodies in Europe, but also in what concerns the policies of Members States. The Committee of Regions acts in the spirit of cooperation: in October the report of Andrea Bocskor MEP on EU Youth Strategy 2013-2015 has been adopted by the Parliament, which among the others includes the amendments proposed by the CoR too. I am highly delighted by this outcome, because this can be considered as a good example of cooperation between two bodies. Moreover, the European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport, Mr. Tibor Navracsics assured of the Commission’s willingness to take region-specific measures. As a follow up of the common work, the Commission will launch targeted support mechanisms for social inclusion and integration policies through the Erasmus Plus program to help millions of young Europeans improve their lives by learning new skills and finding better jobs.
A lot of efficient measurements has been adopted by different member states within the EU which are worth to take into consideration. Member states being in the early stage in supporting entrepreneurial spirit and developed skills among young people have to cooperate with states having experience in policies regarding the self employment of young people.
Reforms on youth employment should rely on one important aspect, namely that self-employment not only is an opportunity for young people with great initiatives but also it may help to overcome barriers to labour market entry faced by some young people.
I truly believe that in order to be efficient in any kind of policy field, we need to cooperate with each other. We, as the representatives of local governments, welcome every proposal and initiative whether it is coming from the European Commission, European Parliament youth organizations and other institutions. According to the result of a survey made in Harghita County, 55,6% of the fresh graduates plan to start a business.
Thank you for your attention!