As the European Compass project continues, we are led to wonder about the effects that the Covid-19 pandemic could have on socio-educational workers and young NEETs. The states are already announcing major impacts on the world economy and unprecedented repercussions on the job market.
What will happen to the professional integration of young people already in a precarious situation? Will the missions of the professionals who accompany them on their journey undergo fundamental changes?
The COMPASS partners have collected testimonies from various European field actors still working with young people.
In Austria, the ÖJAB Austrian Youth workers Movement guarantees educational continuity through a digital transition that began before the crisis. Classrooms have been replaced by e-learning and increased support ensures that each young person carries out the tasks assigned to them to move forward. Motivation is sometimes lacking in times of crisis and personal concerns, but personal support has been organised through new communication applications.
In Bulgaria, CATRO had managed to receive feedback from a youth worker from one of the biggest cities in the country. During the conversation, a tendency of reducing the requests for any kind of support from youths was strongly highlighted. Currently, all the youth workers are managing their tasks remotely, a few days of the week they are at the office.
All of the personal contacts are suspended, and she is receiving phone calls with inquiries mainly for the State measures concerning employment. For example, youths who had lost their job are seeking information about the needed documentation from the local labour offices for compensation or addition financial support. In contrast to youth activity before the crisis, now career counselling sessions are not in focus.
A huge number of the youth people are now trying to save their current job occupation, being paralyzed of fear.
The needed psychological and mentoring support is provided from the youth workers, but in the next few months, they will face new socio-economic challenges, for which they have to further equip.
In Spain, vocational integration counsellors are trying to adapt through an analysis of the means of communication used by the young people they accompany daily. In this way, they have been able to reassure the young people and their families and to re-launch a dynamic for a time when anxiety and isolation have slowed down.
“After this analysis, social networks played a fundamental role, making this resource totally standardised for young people”.
The workshops also adapt to new media with themes such as “The use of social networks for job search”.
Finally, in this period the role of counsellor has taken on a “therapeutic” dimension in order to offer the best support.
In Greece, the regional director of the National Employment Agency for the region of Thessaly emphasises that priority is given to the training of NEETs. Participants in the many pre-existing mentoring programmes remain mobilised and show a desire to improve their knowledge and skills. However, one concern remains: what will be the impact of the economic recession on the labour market?
Pending answers, online training programs are being offered with the support of mentors including youth workers and social workers.
In France, specialized educators in the field are doing their best to follow up on the young people they refer to. Accustomed to meeting in dedicated centres around activities that encourage communication and confidence-building, professionals testify to the difficulty of maintaining links. Exchanges take place almost every day over the telephone and often focus on personal concerns and on the difficulties that the rules of social distancing represent for these sometimes highly isolated young people.
Help is also provided in the day-to-day organisation of integration processes, supported by professionals from local missions and other institutions in the sector.
“The complementary nature of the participants ensures that no one is left by the wayside”.
In Romania, while actions in contact with young people are continuing thanks to online services and new platforms, job security in the socio-educational sector seems problematic. Youth workers are already seeing their incomes decline and some are already unemployed. At the same time, funding for youth centres, largely funded by family contributions, is no longer being provided. The cessation of renting out premises to private structures for events also represents a hard blow to the operating budget.
In Europe, the testimonies are similar; the financial problems lead us to envisage new types of support which require a new approach based on new technologies but also on increased communication. A common objective is at the heart of the concerns: the empowerment of young people; an empowerment forced by circumstances but which can be an opportunity for new dynamics if the means are given.
By sharing practices and providing online resources to support social workers in education, the COMPASS partners hope to contribute to this momentum.
The project COMPASS propose to work on new tools to help recognize and improve youth work and specially the one towards NEET’s labour market inclusion. It aims to develop at the same time youth workers’ counseling and mentoring skills and work directly their competences on NEETs target groups leading them to employment through soft skills.