Welcome to UP2YOUTH: Youth - actor of social change

Implications for policy and practice Print


The UP2YOUTH project has collected a number of case studies on policies and practices in our research fields. These case studies have been selected to represent current trends in policy-making in Europe. An explanation of the idea behind this collection can be found here.

In the following, UP2YOUTH coordination team member Axel Pohl draws policy and practice implications from the UP2YOUTH research findings. More general policy implications of our research can be found in the "Results" section of this website.


Policy-making in the area of transitions to work mainly has to deal with the changing demands of the world of labour. Simultaneously, youth and young adulthood have established themselves as a distinct life stage rather than a transitory period en route to adulthood. A significant majority of young people with ethnic minority or migrant backgrounds are affected by these changes in a particular way and policy-making needs to be aware of the particular agency related to these situations.

In most European countries the changes in the working world imply a diversification of education and training pathways. This makes a life-course or life-cycle perspective in policy-making, aimed at the biographical viability of individual education and training careers, indispensable. Although this is primarily a task of high-level planning in educational and training institutions at systems level, individual support mechanisms need to be established that work on the level of transitions between the different cycles of the education and training system. This can mean strengthening counselling and support mechanisms (such as vocational and career guidance) and qualifying these services to deal with the life situations of young people from an ethnic minority or migration background.

In the same vein, misleading trajectories need to be avoided by making transitions and shifts between and within education and training tracks reintegratable into subjectively rewarding careers. One method of achieving this goal is the modularization of training systems. This could be especially beneficial to young people who have fewer opportunities to enter into these tracks. Self-employment as a wide-spread strategy to secure employment among certain migrant communities should be combined with efforts to recognise informally and non-formally acquired skills; these skills can also acquire compatibility with recognised qualifications.

On the other side of the coin, the de-coupling of education and employment systems implies a self-reflective perspective within these education and training systems. If education and training can no longer guarantee integration by awarding qualifications that open the door to stable employment, then their legitimacy in the eyes of young people is no longer self-evident.

Education and training institutions need to reflect this new reality and they need to be re-shaped from ‘prescribing' institutions into institutions which are part of young people's real life worlds. For young people with an ethnic minority or migration background this situation needs to be reflected in two ways;

(1) Institutions such as schools and training institutions have to be aware of the subtler forms of unintended and indirect forms of institutional discrimination that currently exist and build into their standard procedures methods of dealing pro-actively with this phenomenon.

(2) Education and training are central social arenas wherein social integration and social positioning are negotiated between institutions and young people and also amongst young people themselves.

Therefore school climate and each school's interpretation of a multi-cultural reality are crucial ingredients in discerning how young people perceive themselves and how young people discern the society around them.

In general, institutions need to be open and reflexive regarding their own role in the process of ethnicisation or "racialisation" of societal and social conflicts, and of social constellations. Ideally, they provide a flexible space wherein young people's negotiation of social identities and social positioning are kept open. Gender awareness is a critical point in case and the above principles means that both gender-specific approaches and gender-aware mainstream services are required. This perspective gains yet more importance for girls and young women who come from communities influenced by strong and traditional gender role allocation. For these communities, a perspective of what males can gain or lose from positioning themselves in such constellations can provide a clue to solving the rising problems associated with the educational and societal disintegration of boys and young men.

The degree of institutional flexibility on the issues of belonging and social identities presents a dilemma in the targeting of policies for youth: the narrower the definition of a target group, the more risk of closing the space required for negotiation and the greater the risk of stigmatising effects.

Non-formal education in youth and community work settings in this respect seems to be capable of delivering two benefits: (1) providing migrant or ethnic minority communities with the means to celebrate diversity without losing sight of society as a whole and (2), possessing a set of working methods that allows for coping with the challenges described above. To maximise these strengths all categories of non-formal education need to be recognised as valuable elements in young people's education and need top be closely linked into local, regional and national transition systems.

Ethnic and migratory background young people's relative disadvantages in transitions to the labour force are primarily attributed to disadvantageous social conditions such as low income, housing issues related to socially disadvantageous concentration of problems in disadvantaged neighbourhoods and areas. To combat this state of affairs transition policies have to be embedded into a whole set of policies that attempt narrow the gap between disadvantaged groups and mainstream society.  This should not of course neglect general anti-discrimination policies, anti-racist initiatives and intercultural perspectives in mainstream institutions.

Last Updated ( Thursday, 16 July 2009 )

Project supported by funding under the European Union's Sixth Research Framework Programme - Coordinated by IRIS e.V.

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