Interview with Dr Hande Özsan (Assembly of European Regions)
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Interview with Dr Hande Özsan (Assembly of European Regions)
The AER (Assembly of European Regions) is one of the eight members that are participating in the YES Project. Since they did not celebrate a Regional Reference Group - due to their peculiar composition -, they told as about school-to-work transition in youth. On behalf of them, the interview was made by Dr Hande Özsan Bozatli, President of the AER Committee on culture, education, youth and international cooperation and Vice-President of the Special Province of Istanbul.

- How active is the Assembly of European Regions in the field of youth employment?

The Assembly of European Regions has been dealing for quite some time with the issue of youth unemployment and has explored innovative ways of fighting what it refuses to consider as a fatality. With an average youth unemployment rate of more than 20% across Europe, this issue lies at the heart of economic and youth policies in most European regions. Unlike Member States which have a macro-economic approach to the issue and local authorities which often lack the political tools and means to implement a constructive and perennial policy, most European regions have both a good understanding of the job market on the ground as well as the financial and regulatory means to promote youth employment policies. Young people realize that and 70% of them want their regional authorities to help them with the school-to-work transition while 62% think that education structures should be adapted to a changing labour market.

This is why AER has launched a reflection on the issue of youth employment with the close involvement of its Youth Regional Network which gathers around 150 young people, members of regional parliament or youth organisations. Exchanges of best practices between European regions have taken place at various occasions over the past two years. This has enabled us to share knowledge about various specific issues such as youth or women entrepreneurship, school-to-work transitions and education to entrepreneurship.

- Why is education to entrepreneurship so important in AER’s approach to youth employment?

Education to entrepreneurship is a key tool in the fight against youth unemployment. Research shows that entrepreneurs account for between 30% and 70% of net job creation yet too little is being done to promote entrepreneurship as a skill among young people.
In view of that void and if European regions are to reach the targets mentioned in the 2020 strategy, including a 75% employment rate, everything must be done to encourage the release of the innovative potential which is latent in most young people.

It is because AER believes in the audacity, creativity and entrepreneurial potential of its youth that it decided to actively engage into the Youth Entrepreneurship Strategies project to increase awareness of this field among its members and promote exchange of best practices.

- What is the role of AER in the YES project?

Alongside seven other partners, representing individual regional authorities, regional development agencies and youth organizations, AER’s added value lies in the width of its membership. In order to make sure that best practices across Europe are identified and shared as widely as possible, AER will involve its strong network of 270 regions from 33 countries in the study of education to entrepreneurship practices, aimed to help give a far reaching European dimension to the project.

- Can you mention other initiatives of the AER in the field of youth employment?

Apart from the important YES project, AER is active on various fronts. For the past 25 years, AER has given the opportunity to thousands of young people to gain a first professional experience in another European region through its Eurodyssey programme. Regions taking part in the programme welcome young professionals from other partner regions, offer accommodation and language classes and work closely with local firms which welcome our participants. 80% of the young professionals which take part in this programme find a job in the few months following their work placement.

AER also work closely with some regions in need of more targeted help and does not hesitate to partner with international organisations such as the UN with which it has launched in the summer 2010 a fund for youth employment in the region of Shkodra (Albania).
Our commitment to fight youth unemployment is constant and we encourage all AER member regions to take an active part in our various initiatives and make their voice heard at the occasion of the YES survey that are circulating in 2011.

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