Since April last year, I have been involved in what I personally feel would be an excellent idea to motivate young people, bring out their perhaps hidden passion for the arts sector, and make them aware of potential opportunities in the creative industries. But in order to develop the project and give it a much-needed international framework, I had to dig a bit deeper and become more familiar with a very serious issue that currently affects a lot of young people: unemployment.
Looking back at the past few decades most of us can say that we have encountered it at some stage in our working lives, and that it’s a recurrent phenomenon. Having this explained by experts and specialists can sometimes result in being put off even more for not fully comprehending a jargon. Therein lies the danger of becoming mere observers, or taking part in …non-participation.
The way the EU is being perceived, especially in the current economic climate, could be a good example. And there are enough good reasons for it: it’s very time-consuming and nerve wracking to try to understand the infrastructure of the EU and its corresponding bodies and institutions; which countries are part of it; the actual meaning of words such as ‘supranational,’ ‘centralised,’ ‘decentralised.’ It feels like learning a new language – and it is, in many ways.
But the outcome of this frustration and scepticism can sometimes be the desire to learn and understand more and this has been the main challenge for me throughout my Fellowship. Since April I have become aware of (or rather obsessed with) statistics, facts and figures, the European Commission’s press releases on youth unemployment, and their future initiatives on the matter.
Their latest report released this month underlines some very disheartening findings: overall unemployment at EU level has reached a historically high level (9.8%), with 5.6 million young people (or 22.3%) being strongly affected by it. In the UK alone, the current economic climate affects over a million young people, another ‘historically high record.’ To be more specific, high numbers of young people are ‘under-employed’ (i.e. working part-time or on temporary contracts), or ‘inactive’ (i.e. available for work but not seeking it), or the worst-case scenario, ‘neither in employment, education nor training.’
Now moving away from these figures and to ask a question on a more basic human level: how many of us know of or have recently met young people really struggling to find a full-time job in the arts world or any other sector?
They may be recent graduates attempting to find a first job, or they may not have been in education in order to get better hands-on skills and work experience. With the constant systemic changes in the labour market it’s hard to tell which is the better option.
The project we have in mind, and hope to receive EU funding for, is aimed at these young people, and could be a small light at the end of the tunnel. ADVANCE would give young people with creative ideas the chance to learn about how to start their own businesses, but also bring together participants from four European countries (Scotland, Sweden, Latvia, and Spain) to share their experiences.
I believe that raising awareness about these aspects in the young population is vital: to realise that even in a bad economic climate it is OK to trust their instincts, to see the cultural sector as an opportunity that can be created, and to meet peers from other countries facing the very same difficulties.
Of course, there are a lot of challenges that need to be met on the way and one needs to learn a lot about patience and diligence, but young people deserve a chance. Perhaps thinking that small baby steps can make a difference may sound a bit naïve, but I would still like to believe so.
Written by Cristina Roman