Bursting the Bubble

European Week of Sport: What Role Does Sport Play in Dealing with Youth Unemployment?

21 August 2015 | by

In order to promote a healthier lifestyle and to inspire Europeans to exercise on a regular basis, the European Commission has dedicated the second week of September to the European Week of Sport. Taking place at EU, national, regional and local level, the initiative aims at facilitating sporting events that can improve people’s habits and their health by moving more.

EuropeanPublicAffairs.eu have decided to #BeActive and support one of the grass-root sporting events here in Brussels: #Run4Employment, which will take place on 13 September. Less than a month away from the run we have caught up with the President of Project 668, the main organiser of Run for Employment, Lidija Globokar, to learn more about how sport can play its part in offering solutions to youth unemployment.

About Lidija:
Born in Germany to Slovenian parents, Lidija Globokar grew up bilingually and “biculturally”. While she did her traineeship at the European Commission in 2012, Project 668 was born and throughout the years it has grown into a professional development platform for current and former trainees of EU institutions. Lidija considers herself a true “Europhile” embracing the European spirit that together we are stronger. This is also incorporated in “Sharing is Caring”, one of the main principles of Project 668.

Lidija, Project 668 is an NGO that primarily focuses on issues concerning youth employability. However, the European Commission’s reasoning behind the first year’s edition of the European Week of Sport is to improve people’s health by doing more exercise. What is the link between youth unemployment and sport?

“At Project 668, we dedicated 2015 to the Year of Health because we wanted to stress the relationship between a healthy body and a healthy mind. Exercise and physical activity help us stay mentally healthy. This is especially important when you are going through a hard time, and for many young people who struggle finding a job and are faced with high youth unemployment rates in their country, it is even more important to be active. That is why I believe that the Run for Employment and the European Week of Sport perfectly match.”

Would you therefore agree that the main inspiration behind Run for Employment lies with the need to address the issue of chronic youth unemployment levels in Europe?

“The slogan of this year’s European Week of Sport is “be active”. I totally agree that this also perfectly fits with our motivation behind the Run for Employment. We have to be active, go the path step by step, and should not feel ashamed of seeking help and share our concerns with friends. Hence, we decided to organize a relay run. You run in a team with your friends and show that it is possible to reach certain goals by taking the first step and getting active.

Of course we are aware that this is not the big solution to solve the youth unemployment crisis in Europe, there’s more to be done than that. Nonetheless, we offer a positive and pro-active response to youth unemployment and highlight the importance of being active and staying healthy while job hunting.”

Can you tell us more about the Run itself?

“Of course! With great pleasure. 13 September will see 10 teams in a relay race around Parc Léopold, raising funds to support the International Young Professionals Foundation (IYPF) as they develop Job’n’Coop, an app that will empower young people to find and create jobs. Every team will run 5km in total which means 1km per person. Clearly, this is not a challenge for someone who is an avid runner but our reasoning behind is that everything starts with a first step, with a ‘first kilometre’.

We will also set up a Health City, an alternative job fair where companies and NGOs can connect with young workers and jobseekers to explore careers, mental wellbeing and a healthy work life. The Run for Employment will show a positive response to the effects of this economic crisis on Europe’s youth. And in case you have not registered yet, you can do so here.”

This being the first year of the European Week of Sport and #Run4Employment, how do you make sure that people know about you?

“When you organise an event for the first time and when you are at the same time an NGO that relies on volunteers, it is quite challenging to get your messages out there. In my view, we have two sides that contribute to the success of the event. On the one hand, we have a hard working project team, including our co-organizer Brussels Interns NGO (B!ngo), where we also have people with experience in communications and event management. On the other hand we have partner organisations, a media partner, the EU Public Affairs blog, the #BeActive blog of the European Week of Sport and our sponsors Active Europe and Old Continent. Without all of them, this event would not be possible and we could not do it.

We are happy to see that we have found over 10 youth NGOs and sponsors who are willing to support us during this exciting time. It speaks for the idea itself and also shows that youth unemployment is still one of the main challenges of today’s society.”

How difficult is it then to mobilise support for the Run and get young people on board?

“Once we passed the preparation phase, had partners and sponsors on board, it was not in our hands anymore. It is the “crowd”, the so-called target group that decides then if this is what they are interested in or not. So far we have received a lot of positive feedback. During our launch event, where we also showed our promotional video for the first time, all places were taken and some first running teams were already formed. I do not want to deny, though, that there were also moments when I had my doubts and was not sure if we were going to be able to do the event. This is when my team jumps in. A meeting with them, seeing their motivated faces and all doubts suddenly seem so small. I am grateful to have them.”

You mentioned that sport or healthy lifestyle must be part of the solution to dealing with youth unemployment. What other suggestions does Project 668 have to fight the problem of youth disengagement?

“I am not sure if youth disengagement is really a big problem. My feeling is rather that many young people are active in all kinds of associations, NGOs, alumni networks or even writing a blog. My colleagues and I see that during our CV Café, a free of charge CV assessment. Many of the young people who come to our CV Cafés are engaged in several associations and have been also involved in students’ associations or students’ clubs. But what we do see is that there is a skills gap. There are certain skills missing that you do not learn at University or at school, yet, they are needed to look for a job and actually applying for one.

To bridge the skills gap, we offer our members webinars and workshops where we look, for example, behind the scenes of a job interview and analyse what different kind of categories are behind the questions of a job interview. Moreover we have a monthly Apéro meeting where we want to encourage young professionals and job seekers to exchange their job hunting experience and live our #SharingIsCaring principle. Our social media channels also play a crucial role in bridging the skills gap. A group of community managers share relevant and quality content with our community, another incorporation of #SharingIsCaring. Both on and offline events are important to get in touch with young people and help them breaking into the job market and increasing their employability.”

What do you think?