Generating Jobs for the Jobless Generation – from Nyíregyháza to Europe and Back

Mariann Majorné Venn

By Mariann Majorné Venn, on June 18th, 2015

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Over the last year, a number of URBACT experts and practitionners have been involved in four workstreams. This work ended with the presentation of the workstream results in Riga, with master-classes and workshop. We interviewed Béla Kézy, national URBACT expert, a member of the “JOB GENERATION for a Jobless Generation” workstream about his experiences in the URBACT Program, his hometown, and how  it could benefit from the workstream’s process and results.

This URBACT City Festival is proving it once more: URBACT is a growing community. How does one ‘end-up’ a part of that? What led you to work with the city of Nyíregyháza?

As the partner and senior consultant of MEGAKOM Development Consultants, I have been working in regional development since 1998. In the past ten years my attention as a development professional increasingly turned towards urban areas: the local level is where you can actually make change happen. Working in a city you have to translate abstract concepts into specific actions that can really improve the life of people. So I became interested everything related to urban development: I have read books, searched for good practices talked to people and also tried to convey my newfound enthusiasm to our city clients.

Meeting URBACT was a lucky coincidence: I was asked by a small town – Nagykálló – to help them in working with the RomaNet URBACT partnership. I started to attend partnership meetings, talking to people, learning from others and also sharing my experience. Before long, I realized that I became member of the URBACT community, and one thing lead to another. I was asked by the URBACT Secretariat to deliver the URBACT National Training in Hungary, and then I found myself being one of the 8 lab managers at the URBACT Summer University in Dublin.

Why Nyíregyháza? Although I was not born in Nyíregyháza, but I grew up in the town – I went to school, I had – and still have – my best friends here. I am convinced that everyone has a settlement he or she feels home – for me Nyíregyháza is that town – my hometown. Even though I went to university in Budapest and had my first job there, I returned to Nyíregyháza on the first possible occasion, and still live here. I have traveled quite a lot, I have seen many cities across Europe – but it is always good to return to my hometown.

 Lately, your focus has been Youth Employement. It may be surprising to some – of couse, we know youth employement is an important european problem, but why is it considered an issue for cities to tackle?

70% of Europe’s young people live in cities – unfortunately many of these young people either does not have a job at all, or at least does not have a decent job. More than 1 in 8 (13%) of all young people – 7.5 million – are not in education, training or employment (the so called NEETs). In addition to being a social problem, this is also an enormous waste of resources and talent. According to Eurofound’s estimation the economic loss alone associated with the waste of young people is in excess of €153bn, a sum equivalent to 1.2% of the EUs total GDP! And although one may argue that this is a challenge that needs to be addressed by the national governments, an increasing number of cities realize that it is actually their problem as well and they have to do something about it. A lively, vibrant and sustainable city needs young people, so the last thing they want is young people leaving the city in search of a better life. But that’s exactly what happens when those young people cannot find decent jobs. This challenge has also been recognized by URBACT – that is why the URBACT capitalisation workstream – JOB GENERATION for a Jobless Generation – was launched. I had the privilege to work in this workstream.

So – going back to Nyíregyháza: were there practical conclusions you could draw out of the workstream results for the city you work in?

As part of Job generation workstream we worked with a team of professionals – thinkers and doers as we call them – to identify good practices, possible solutions. As a result of these discussions it became quite clear that, in order to address the youth unemployment problem cities need to:

  •  1. Better understand the challenge – most cities have some basic figures, but that’s not enough; they have to see the supply and demand, they have to look at the causes, they have to understand the needs and expectations of the young people – and also that of the employers.
  • 2. Engaging the employers – increasing youth employment cannot be imagined without increasing the demand – the number of quality jobs on the local labour market. To achieve that, however, cities need to engage employers to become part of the process.
  • 3. Engaging the young people – young people are not really the problem – they are actually part of the solution – that is, if cities are able to involve them in the process.

Well, nothing new there, you may say; the real question is HOW cities can really achieve that? What should be the first step? Discussing the problem with the vice mayor of Nyíregyháza, Hungary, we realized that putting the key actors – employers, young people and the representative of the city – around the same table and having an honest dialogue can actually help contribute to all three at once: engaging employers, engaging young people and also better understanding the problem.

But hat appears like one event at first sight is actually a long process. Forming a Youth Employment Forum sounds like organizing a workshop, or a small conference. When we started out, the original plan was to deliver the forum itself within one month. After getting to the nitty/gritty details we have realized that it is a lot more than just one event. Months have been passed (to be fair, that also included elections and the Christmas holidays), and we are still in the preparation phase. You need to get on board all the departments; you need to convince the companies to participate; you need to identify and prepare young people – and many other things to be done before you can actually start to organize the event itself. But we are getting close…

What other good practices have been identified by the “URBACT Capitalization Workstream”?

Nyíregyháza is only one of the many good examples identified by the Job Generation URBACT Capitalisation Workstream. Tampere, Finland, for instance, set an example of providing entrepreneurial education for university students. In Wroclaw, Poland entrepreneurial education starts even earlier: teachers use playful ways to teach the most important entrepreneurial skills to primary school children. In Thessaloniki, Greece the city established “Creativity Platform” to promote growing jobs for young people in the creative sector. Leeds City Region, UK has an integrated set of measures to reduce youth unemployment. One of those measures, the “Apprenticeship Hub” provides a central point of contact offering free independent and co-ordinated apprenticeship advice and support for SMEs.

These good practices and all the key findings and conclusions of the “Job generation team” are presented in a visually engaging and concise way in a – well, for the lack of a better word – brochure, which can be downloaded from here. It is edited like a magazine’s special edition – and it is a must-read for any city leader who wants to address youth unemployment in his or her city.

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Interviewee: Béla Kézy, senior consultant, MEGAKOM

 

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