52.1. Short description
An increasingly serious social problem in recent years has been the growth in the number of young people dropping out of school but remaining outside of the labour market, and who, for various reasons, lack work habits, discipline and responsibility. This population has been dubbed “the NEET generation” (not in education, employment or training) by the media. The programme is innovative both for its organisation (a new form of joint implementation of policy between government, business and the third sector) and because it is a response to a new social problem. We could call it a new way of bridging the gap between the administrative world and the “real world”.
It was necessary to break the cycle and encourage companies to hire these young people through internship programmes. However, the onset of the economic crisis has made it increasingly difficult to get companies to accept young trainees following the regulations established for this. It is in this context that in 2007, the city council proposed a new model for intervention that aimed to incorporate these young people into programmes to train them and to develop work habits and responsibility. This meant getting companies involved.
Young People with a Future is a programme of the Barcelona City Council, which, along with the regional government, has competency over this area, and is run through the city agency Barcelona Activa. The idea was to have a programme that would guide and mentor young people throughout the process and whose final goal would be job placement. In other words, there was the need for specialised job training as well as training in basic competencies and good work habits. The target population was young people between the ages of 16 and 25 years who had not finished basic education and were unemployed.
52.2. Types of services and ways of addressing users
Once the project was planned, the programme was set to run for the 2-year period 2010-12. The programme offered vocational training together with training in competencies as well as an internship contracted with a company to participants who fulfilled the requirements.
Training was provided by distance learning through the Open Institute of Catalonia (IOC). Its goal was for young people to be able to obtain their secondary school diploma. Once this process was completed, they were assisted in finding job placements in companies through a “work internship contract”. This prior training was recognised as the equivalent training that employers were meant to provide under the established regulations. The result was that the young person arrived at the company having already completed the required training programme and the company would provided, him or her, a 6-month work internship contract. A series of subsidies were also established for those companies who subsequently hired these young people during their “employment”.
The programme had two phases as a result of having to adapt to the economic and political changes taking place after its initiation. Starting in 2012, a different group of young people appeared who also had problems integrating into the labour market; these were young people with education, degrees and training who, due to the economic situation, were also having serious difficulties finding work.
52.3. Internal organisation and modes of working
The project worked in innovative ways, institutionalising organisations and creating a diverse range of public–private partnerships among different entities and organisations within society and business at the local level. The programme brought together three types of organisations: (a) third-sector organisations, (b) local businesses and (c) the government bodies responsible for job placement within the regional government.
The participants in the programme were recruited through third-sector organisations and the employment offices of the regional government, which organised informational sessions for unemployed young people and selected those who were eligible for the programme. The youth council of the city was also involved.
Eight third-sector organisations that worked with young people in the city participated in the programme, providing guidance and tutoring for the participants. Each organisation provided a professional to be in charge of selecting the young people to participate in the programme, who would also accompany them throughout the duration of the programme. They were to be their tutors during the training and the work internship.
In addition to the staff provided by the organisations, there were also other staff and tutors from Barcelona Activa. All of them were trained by the IOC to monitor the online training of these young people. Exams took place in the offices of Barcelona Activa.
Different training programmes were designed based on the participants’ interests and the job resources available. During the first year, 582 young people began their training, and 472 of them passed their exams. Of these, 264 were contracted by companies to do internships.
Due to political changes the programme was altered, which affected the continuity of the programme as designed:
- The first change was related to Barcelona’s new municipal government, which is now led by the nationalist/conservative party, after more than 30 years of socialist party-led governments. The new phase of the programme contained an important variation: the programme no longer only targeted young people who had dropped out of school but was extended to a broader population due to the critical economic situation, targeting all unemployed young people between the ages of 16 and 25 years, whether they had finished school (including university) or not. The programme, therefore, now had two branches: one targeting young people who had dropped out of school, which maintained the same design as before (training in the areas of hotel and catering, tourism, administration and personal services), and the other offering specialised training for placement in jobs requiring degrees (family mediation, social communication, project management, etc.).
- The second and final change came with the closing of the programme by regional government (Generalitat of Catalonia) and its assignment to the “social economy” network of the Citizens’ Agreement (see the next section). A political decision was made to strengthen businesses and promote self-employment due to “structural needs”. It could be said that the active policies designed by the government in recent months have “taken businesses more into account than individuals” (I-5).
52.4. The embeddedness of the project in the local welfare system
Both phases of the programme were embedded in the local social welfare system, even though they were two somewhat different processes. In the first phase the programme served as an axis to involve organisations and companies in helping unemployed young people to get training and jobs. In contrast, in this second phase it is the Social Economy network of Barcelona. Among other objectives, it is trying to find solutions to the exclusion of young people from the labour market.
In both phases this issue has been able to unite a range of social and political stakeholders. Diverse stakeholders involved in local social welfare have joined forces to establish innovative forms of action. One of the important lessons to be drawn from this is that local social welfare systems are influenced and may be affected – as in this case – by higher level regulations, and this may impede their development. Although a specific local dynamic may promote social innovation, its success is tied to decisions made at other levels of government in cases where policies depend on public administration at another territorial level.