NEETs: giving concrete responses

A two-day meeting dedicated to NEETs i.e. young people who are Not in Education, Employment or Training, with discussions, presentations of data and projects providing concrete solutions. On the second day of the meeting, Fondazione Cariplo presented the results of NEETwork, a project it started in 2015 under a partnership with the Adecco Foundation, Toniolo Institute, CGM – Mestieri Lombardy  in collaboration with Lombardy’s Regional Administration. It is a project geared to ease employment for young people who for varied reasons quit education prematurely and, due to their lack of adequate skills or previous job experience, are excluded from the labor market. Specifically, it is directed at youngsters aged 18-24 years with level of education not higher than middle school and who have been unemployed for at least 6 months. A model that can give tangible responses to the worrying NEET phenomenon, a model that rests on the readiness of nonprofit organizations to help these youths – this is  NEETwork.

The results of the project

One year after its launch, the project has made progress.  Engagement campaigns have been held, offers of some 500 traineeship positions gathered from more than 230 nonprofit organizations, contact made with young people, interviews with interested youths conducted by recruitment office staff and psychologists, and youngsters matched with the traineeship positions offered. And, most importantly the first 100 traineeships got started.

“A country that calls itself civilized cannot accept such a high rate of youth unemployment like the one we have today in Italy” – said  Giuseppe Guzzetti, President of Fondazione Cariplo – “And NEETs are an even more vulnerable youth population. It is for them that our Foundation designed this project. Launched one year ago for a thousand of them, it is giving tangible responses to the needs of the young people participating in it by offering them a work experience at a nonprofit organization. Their stories carry great weight. And looking at them we can easily understand how their life was before this project and see how their outlook on the future and their confidence have changed now. This is NEETwork: a project winning back young people who had been cornered. It won’t fix the overall problem, but it certainly is a good practice showing a way to begin to fix it.

The context

According to data collected in the first six month of 2016, in Italy there are about 2.2 million NEETs, i.e. young people who are Not in Education, Employment or Training. With 260,000 NEETs, Lombardy is the Italian region with the third largest number of young people in this condition. About 40% of NEETs in the 15-29 age group have middle school or lower education, a percentage rising to 42% in the 15-24 age bracket. Against such a backdrop, the need for the deployment of novel alliances and strategies that can effectively tackle the issue and combat its steady rise is self-evident.

Who is the project for?

NEETwork is a project for 1,000 NEETs in Lombardy. It is directed at the most vulnerable, i.e. young people aged 18 to 24 years, with middle school or lower education and little or no work experience, people at high risk of falling through the cracks.

How did we reach out to them? Through Facebook as well

Disheartened young people who have even stopped submitting their CVs to recruitment agencies. Youths who are ‘invisible’ and yet active on Facebook. We found and contacted  them on social media in a sort of ‘intelligence operation’ for a good cause. A key role was played by moms and grandmas.  After receiving many phone calls from them enquiring about the project on behalf of their children and grandchildren, Fondazione Cariplo directed  at them a campaign on social media. Mothers have proven to be highly effective in spurring their children to have a go. Their encouragement worked and proved to be important. Facebook campaigns targeted to youths and their mothers have shown to be effective in reaching out to young people in ways and using the media young people are most familiar with. In addition to these campaigns, a significant number of NEETs was found by tapping into the databases of employment service centers and Adecco recruitment offices.

How it works

Fondazione Cariplo together with CGM-Mestieri Lombardy, Toniolo Institute and  the  Adecco Foundation believes the alliance with third sector organizations is essential to the fulfillment of the project and called upon nonprofits in Lombardy to collaborate on this endeavor by offering young people a tangible opportunity that engages them in a 4-6-month paid traineeship at their organization to ultimately help them transition into employment starting from their experience at nonprofit enterprises.

Results so far

To-date over 230 nonprofit organizations have offered about 500 paid traineeship positions. The traineeships started so far have been about 100 against a significantly higher number of youths that had been contacted. A large number of them withdrew either in the very early stages or along the way prior to starting a traineeship. This can be explained by the diversity of youths recruited for this project. Not few have been the cases of  people with personal issues, difficult family  backgrounds, poor education, thus requiring longer and more complex work by recruitment staff to identify their interests, make them reflect on the opportunity given to them, motivate the most disillusioned and in numerous cases ‘chase’ them in spite of their initially stated interest in participating in the project. On the other hand, there has also been a significant number of youngsters who have shown enthusiasm about the opportunity given to them and great dedication during the traineeship.