Youth unemployment in Southern Italy StartNet for dual training

© StartNet

​The pilot network StartNet Italy seeks to improve the transition from school to work in southern Italy. While the job market there has improved in recent years, there are still considerable challenges. This is mainly due to the mismatch between what the job market needs and the career goals of young people. This is precisely what StartNet is focusing on by seeking to bring companies and schoolchildren together.

“Puglia and Basilicata are two regions in southern Europe that are particularly affected by youth unemployment. There are definitely future-oriented opportunities here for young people, it’s just a matter of addressing this mismatch,” explains Angelika Bartholomäi, project manager of StartNet Italien.
StartNet in Apulien und Basilikata © StartNet But why is the south so badly affected by this imbalance in the job market? “The problem in Puglia is that there are lots of family-run companies, SMEs and micro-enterprises which are unable to invest in training,” explains Bartholomäi. Strong family structures are nevertheless important where there are high levels of youth unemployment as they offer support when people are out of work. In northern Italy, in regions such as Lombardy and Piedmont, there are large industrial companies that can invest in the training of their young people. “We’re often told that there is a need for welders. There are actually lots of young people not sitting university entrance exams who could easily do that.” However, there are few dual training schemes. The supply and demand exist – it’s just a question of bringing them together and creating better partnerships for companies and young people. 


Die fünf Handlungsfelder The five areas of activity | StartNet Italy [graph] Vertical careers guidance From elementary school to career entry Vocational internships while at school and the training of tutors and mentors Partnerships between schools and companies (Re)integration and training of persons not in education, employment or training (NEET) Entrepreneurial outlook and start-ups | StartNet Italien At regular network meetings, the partners plan projects in five different areas of activity, including in careers guidance, which should ensure improvement in the long term. These are the pillars on which StartNet initiatives are based. A series of knowledge camps geared to the local situation, in which partners, companies and schools take part, act as a meeting point for discussion and networking. “It’s about creating better cooperation in certain professions. Companies are currently making a big effort and are trying to work more closely with the schools. The vocational school for tourism then meets a major employer in the tourism sector, for example,” explains Bartholomäi. It is not just in tourism and the blue economy and cultural heritage sectors where partnerships would clearly be beneficial through networking and the resulting training of specialist employees. “Trades, agriculture and the food-processing industry. That’s what has always existed in the south traditionally.” Oil, wine, fruit and vegetables are products of excellence which are exported worldwide. In these areas of employment, there is need for innovation, on one hand, but also great innovation potential, on the other, which can be structured internationally. Digitalisation and ‘Industry 4.0’ will undoubtedly continue to play a key role in future, but the priority in the traditional areas of work is to develop the resources that exist.


“The young people that we’ve met personally sometimes feel very anxious because they don’t know which path to take,” explains Bartholomäi describing the situation. This means that children should be made familiar with the world of work from the outset so that they can work out where their talents lie and what they want to do.
As a result, the OR.CO. Digitsys project does not just cover school activities, but instead the entire family and social environment of the children to show them various future opportunities. “Thanks to the support of the ‘Con i bambini’ fund, we have the opportunity to develop a model project which prevents young people from dropping out of school. Six pilot projects in Puglia and Basilicata were selected – these are in socially or economically deprived areas. This way, we try to keep young people in the region.”
The Skills Camp project mainly focuses on the growing mechatronics sector of the economy where employers in Puglia see great need for action. “There is a lack of specialist workers, but the schools are not able to offer much. Here we’re trying to adopt the German dual training system approach,” says Bartholomäi, explaining the idea behind the project. Based on this initiative, the chambers of commerce in Puglia, companies, the region and ANPAL are jointly launching a pilot project that has aspects of a vocational school. The teachers must clearly be prepared before the students can be trained. Train-the-trainer programmes are not only necessary in this kind of ambitious project, but also in everyday school life at secondary level. With ‘Building futures’, teacher training is combined with the needs of pupils to make school a place where young people can shape their futures. A study that supports the project through focus group interviews and quantitative surveys will project the world of work in Puglia and Basilicata in the next five years and clearly indicate which careers must be promoted in various areas of employment.

StartNet Europe

The StartNet network is not limited to Italy, but also has a European component called  StartNet Europe. Similar initiatives are being brought together in other European countries at the ‘Goethe-Institut’ in Brussels to promote dialogue. The initiatives in northern European countries are further advanced in some areas but face different problems to those encountered in southern Europe. In Finland, for example, it is often jobs in industry that remain unfilled: “There are few specialist industrial workers because so many people go to university. This is a different issue to the one faced in Puglia where there is sometimes a lack of jobs.” Even if the circumstances are different, it is still interesting to engage in dialogue and learn from one another. StartNet Europe is setting up an exchange platform for this very purpose. “We are now very well represented throughout Europe, from Spain to Romania and right through to Finland.” A lot can be achieved from this dialogue and the network can be expanded to continue combatting youth unemployment in Europe.

Partners of StartNet Italy Partners of StartNet Italy | © StartNet The StartNet project is funded by the Stiftung Mercator and the Goethe-Institut.