NEF in Olsztyn

Young people and the labour market – the New Education Forum in Olsztyn

Inauguration of the “FOLM – From nature to the labor market” project and discussions about an innovative educational model. On 15 May, the New Education Forum conference was held at the Social Forge in Olsztyn.

Invited speakers debated on many current topics, including: are we effectively and properly preparing young people to enter the labor market, how others do this abroad? They talked about the situation of young unemployed in Poland and in European Union countries. They also focused on presenting and describing the “FOLM – From outdoors to labour market” project that is already underway in the region.

The leader of the project in Poland is Center for Innovative Education, a partner – Food Bank Olsztyn. The New Education Forum is a cyclical event with an annual organized conference in the European Parliament in Brussels.

The meeting was attended by distinguished guests, including the Ambassador of Spain in Poland, the Marshal of the Warmian-Masurian Voivodeship, representatives of the University of Edinburgh, the University of Warsaw, the Ministry of Family, Labor and Social Policy, the Provincial Labor Office, the Culture and Education Committee of the Regional Assembly Warmia-Mazury. People who participated in the FOLM project in Ireland, Great Britain and Spain also came to Olsztyn.

The conference was opened by the president of the Food Bank in Olsztyn – Marek Borowski and talked about the phenomenon of young people who currently do not have jobs and are not educated (from English: NEET). Marshal of the Warmian-Masurian Voivodship – Gustaw Marek Brzezin added that if we want to develop the region, we have to bet on the young generation. Formerly it was unthinkable not to work, man is created for that. Today, the percentage of unemployed young people is huge. Therefore, projects such as “FOLM – From outdoors to labour market” perfectly fit into the current realities. Joanna Bochniarz – President of the Center for Innovative Education, stressed that the problem of the lack of qualified employees is very much related to the Warmian-Masurian Voivodeship. Therefore, we should do everything to help young people enter adulthood. The Spanish Ambassador to Poland – Francisco Javier Sanabria Valderrama summarized that the Warmian-Masurian Voivodeship has a lot of potential that can be developed. Therefore, he appreciated the incredible value of the project in these areas.

During the presentation of the project “FOLM – From nature to the labor market”, Joanna Bochniarz signaled that the NEET problem will continue to exist if formal education does not change. The Center for Innovative Education would like the model used in the case of FOLM to continue after the expiry of the project, which will last until February 2022. In each of the countries (Poland, Spain, Ireland) 300 people will take part in the project, and 30 in the pilot phase. In total, it gives 990 young people, restored to the labor market or education.

What is the uniqueness of FOLM? Young people from Warmia and Mazury will help to motivate the “outdoor learning” method. It’s about training in contact with nature. Project participants along with trainers go to the forest. There, for 7 days, in the bosom of nature, without mobile phones and laptops, they work on personal development. The method from several years ago was developed by scientists from the University in Edinburgh, today it is recognized in Scotland as an effective way of activating. It develops the so-called soft skills, such as coping with stress, time management, creativity, cooperation in a group, leadership skills or assertiveness.

After the presentation of the project, a panel discussion took place, to which significant guests, strongly involved in the subject of the labor market, were invited. Dr Ewa Flaszyńska – Director of the Labor Market Department, Ministry of Family, Labor and Social Policy – she stressed the need to show young people what occupations are now in demand. Dr Justyna Godlewska-Szyrkowa from the University of Warsaw added that one should think about how to encourage young people to take up a job. It is also necessary to change education and adapt it to the needs of the labor market. At present, the school does not offer adequate advisory support in this respect. Professor UW dr hab. Jacek Męcina – Expert from the Confederation LEWIATAN – noted that before the implementation of the project “FOLM – From Outdoors to Labour Market” in Poland there are great challenges to be faced. First of all, this is the heterogeneity of the labor market, as well as the demographic crisis – there are no hands to work. Entrepreneurs must learn to use these human resources that are available. It is very important that the “FOLM – From Outdoors to Labour Market” project is encapsulated with various partnerships with companies that are interested in employing activated adolescents.

Participants of the discussion panel also talked the issue of recruitment for the project, which causes some problems in the Warmian-Masurian Voivodeship. Zdzisław Szczepkowski – Director of the Provincial Labor Office suggested all organic activities, including through social media, help centers (Municipal Social Welfare Center, Communal Social Welfare Center, Poviat Family Assistance Center, etc.), by village leaders, and even by the parish priest! Professor University of Warsaw dr hab. Jacek Męcina emphasized the importance of employment offices with information on young people who for various reasons broke contact with the Labour Office. The penetration of the local environment in which NEETs are active is also key.

Representatives of institutions supporting NEET activation were also invited to the New Education Forum. Beata Tokarczyk – Vice-President of the WM Group noted that today the concept of “dysfunctionality” should be redefined. Young people do not want to work, while companies / institutions would learn their skills needed to perform a given profession – but they simply do not report. Wioletta Śląska-Zyśk – Chairwoman of the Culture and Education Committee of the Warmińsko-Mazurskie Regional Assembly stressed that young people need motivation, good practices, respect, conversation and being treated “humanly”. The specificity of the “generation Z” lies in the fact that they put on the “here and now” – immediately – they will not give more than the work requires. Therefore, it is necessary to organize workshops for employers that will make them aware that the “generation Z” is working in a completely different way. Zdzisław Szczepkowski concluded that young people who had already taken part in the project should be in “FOLM – From Outdoors to Labour Market” and were able to enter the labor / education market. They would be the best advertising and encouraging others to participate.

The New Education Forum ended with the signing of a letter of intent on the cooperation of the organization with the Food Bank regarding the recruitment of young people who participated in the “FOLM – From Outdoors to Labour Market” project.

The project is financed by Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway through the European Economic Area (EEA) and the Norwegian Grants Fund for Youth. The value of the grant was 3.4 million euros.

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