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24th Sep 2017

Young Europeans lack job skills, US consultancy says

  • Anti-austerity protesters: One in two young people in Spain cannot get a job (Photo: M. Martin Vicente)

Europe's young people lack the skills for work despite record levels of unemployment, according to a report by the US-based consultancy giant McKinsey

In its study, "Education to Employment," published on Monday (13 January), McKinsey said one in three firms feel that a lack of skills among Europe's youth posed major business problems, in the form of cost, quality, or time.

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Meanwhile, 27 percent reported that they had left a vacancy unfilled over the past 12 months because they could not find anyone with the right skills.

Mckinsey surveyed more than 5,000 young people, 2,600 employers, and 700 higher education teachers across eight EU countries.

The list includes Germany and Sweden, which have some of the lowest jobless rates in the EU, as well as crisis countries Greece, Portugal and Spain.

Youth unemployment rates in Greece and Spain have tipped 50 percent. Overall, 24 percent of 16-24 year olds across the EU are not in work, training or education.

However, the report found that businesses in crisis countries reported the biggest problems, with 47 percent and 45 percent of Italian and Greek firms saying that a lack of skills is harming their interests.

The report argues that students are put off studying by the cost of living and a perceived bias against vocational courses. It also says that they struggle to make the transition from studying to work.

It calls for universities and colleges to break up degree or vocational programmes into individual modules that focus on building a particular set of skills while still counting toward a degree or formal qualification.

For their part, governments and banks should offer low-interest loans to students pursuing courses that lead towards a job, or set up schemes allowing young people to repay loans in the form of services, such as teaching other students.

The growing skills gap comes as labour markets move towards high-skilled jobs. A study for the European Commission in 2012 found that by 2025, 44 percent of employed people in the EU will be in a highly-skilled job, while only 11 percent of jobs are expected to be low-skilled ones.

Launching the report in a speech Monday (13 January), EU education commissioner Androulla Vasiliou said that the EU executive was "doing its utmost" to help countries overcome the skills gap.

She added that the commission initiative to establish a "European Area for Skills and Qualifications" would help ensure that qualifications and competences were recognised across the bloc.

EU leaders have also agreed to set up youth guarantee schemes from next year, backed by €8 billion from the EU budget to offer training or a job within four months to people in regions where youth unemployment is above one in four.

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EU leaders meeting in Berlin pledged an extra €2 billion for a youth employment scheme and said the European Investment Bank will lend €6bn each year to help small companies hire young people.

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