Close your eyes and get through – or can we find a better way? Empower young people for the European labour market after the pandemic

From October 26th to 30th, 2022, 25 young representatives of employee organisations from 13 European countries met in the Nell-Breuning-House in Herzogenrath (Germany) for the conference of the EZA platform for young employees, organised by the Nell-Breuning-House and funded by the European Union. The title of the event was: “Close your eyes and get through – or can we find a better way? Empower young people for the European labour market after the pandemic”.


At the beginning of the conference, the focus was on getting to know each other and the expectations of the seminar. A high need for replacement was already evident here.

Some expectations and wishes were, for example: getting to know applied practice from other countries, expanding knowledge, discussing work and training issues, networking, standing up for rights, experiencing and shaping Europe.

The second day was a trip to Brussels to the European Parliament. The focus here was a meeting with the EPP parliamentarian Sabine Verheyen, chairwoman of the Committee for Culture and Education (CULT). In the run-up to the conference, the participants had prepared for this meeting in an online meeting. The training opportunities for young employees turned out to be the central topic. The meeting began on-site with a short presentation of Sabine Verheyen and her political tasks. The subsequent discussion was very lively. Various topics were discussed: problems caused by the job guarantee for young people, problems and opportunities through the Bologna process, weighting of theory and practice in vocational training, empowering young people to start their careers.

Despite Sabine Verheyen's busy schedule, the meeting was clearly kept longer due to the lively exchange. Following that, one of Sabine Verheyen's assistants led the Group through Parliament and in the plenary hall. Here political practice became tangible for the participants. The last item on the agenda in Brussels was a visit to the Parlamentarium. The participants went through the exhibition independently with multimedia guides in their different languages and learned a great deal about the history and present of the European Union. During a final round in the Nell-Breuning-House, participants exchanged their experiences and impressions.

The next day revolved around the empowerment of young workers. The participants phrased demands on the European Union for this purpose. It was particularly emphasised that young people need to be trained more about their rights in the labour market and the possibilities of enforcing them. In general, more measures to empower young people were called for.

Regarding the training, there was a very clear opinion among the participants: the cornerstone of good working conditions is good training. This should be accessible to everyone, regardless of their financial status. In addition, vocational training should be more adapted to the reality of the working world and not just function as a pure transfer of knowledge. Significantly more financial support from the EU and direct measures in this direction are therefore required.

After presenting these results, three best practice examples were presented. Here, problems and solutions made it clear to the participants which details are important in the implementation of projects. The focus was particularly on contact and asking about the needs of the participants from the projects. The success stories motivated everyone to do their own work.

A particularly emotional presentation came from the participants in Ukraine. The extreme exceptional situation caused by the war affects all areas of the country. Union work has also been affected. For example, the working week has been increased from 40 hours to 60 hours in some relevant areas. The subsequent solidarity of the conference participants reflected the idea of the European Union.

The fourth day was themed: Dealing with problems and obstacles in practice. Participation was chosen as the method for this. The participants discussed problems in their everyday work in small groups and presented them as a play. The role of the spectators was to intervene and to present proposed solutions through acting. Various practical obstacles were presented. For example, deadlocked structures when working with long-established colleagues, recruiting volunteers or advertising projects to the target group. The chosen method was accepted very positively by the participants.

Regarding the programme, we are confident that the exchange of experiences, suggestions, insights, and ideas will have a positive impact on the work of this year's participants. We are already looking forward to the next conference of the young workers' platform in the coming year.