Junior Achievement Romania goes online to continue working with young NEETs
Like most European countries, Romania has closed its schools as part of the measures to slow down the spread of COVID-19, a situation that will last until the end of April, if not longer. The country is currently facing two options. The first, which many within the education sector hope will not happen, would be to "freeze" the school year, and students would have to start from scratch in September. The second would be to extend the classes into the summer holidays, which could particularly benefit pupils in the 8th and 10th grades as they would be allowed to take their exams and move to the next level. Universities face a similar situation, as classes and courses are linked with one another and students would not be able to continue with their education unless they have passed a previous exam. “In the end, everything depends pretty much on the duration of the measures and on how many people will ultimately be affected by the virus”, explains Dorin Călin, Senior Operations Manager at Junior Achievement (JA) Romania.
However, not everything is lost for the Romanian students this year, as learning and courses are going digital. Several projects with the Ministry of Education in Romania were already looking at online learning and digital platforms for teachers, so the country has not been caught completely off guard. “Unfortunately – continues Dorin – due to the distribution of the population in Romania it is difficult to ensure the same level of access to online information in the many small cities throughout the country compared to the bigger cities”. This may explain why Romania has not opted for completely moving classes online and is instead helping its teachers to keep in touch with the students so that they do not miss their courses, even if those classes will not be properly graded.
Nevertheless, most teachers do continue with their work remotely, and JA Romania has recently joined this community thanks to an educational license from Microsoft. The organisation has also partnered with Google to offer trainings for teachers on different educational tools: how to conduct online classes, how to communicate with the students and how to transfer the learning process to an online environment. The project ‘NEETs in Entrepreneurship’, where JA Romania acts as project coordinator, is looking at those same tools as part of the package that can help young people currently not in education, employment or training (NEETs). Their main task in the next weeks will be to set up the ecosystem for the different teams inside the project so that they have a common space for working together and communicating with the instructors.
Communication through social media will be key to connect with even more NEETs. “Young people are spending more time online – Dorin points out – so, theoretically, it should be a bit easier to reach them”. One of the issues is that many NEETs are not tech savvy and now feel forced to be part of an environment they are not familiar with. Therefore, for JA Romania it is more important than ever to guide them through this new situation.
We see the COVID crisis also as an opportunity to change existing paradigms because it is crucial for young NEETs to develop the necessary skills the need to get into the labour market. Until now, many of them were able to do some small jobs and earn a little salary this way. Now, their life has completely changed and they are in a position where, if they want an income and to have a job, they absolutely need a different attitude and a new skillset
Only in Romania, about 150.000 people might have already lost their jobs due to the COVID-19 crisis, which is putting even more pressure on NEETs as now they will have to compete with experienced workers that are more likely to get back their positions once the economy starts to recover. Unemployment is expected to rise particularly among unqualified workers or those who will not have the capacity or the willingness to move along with the system, in contrast with those sectors with a higher capacity of adaptation. In addition, Romania will soon have to deal with a reverse migration of Romanian workers from other EU countries severely hit by the new coronavirus – such as Italy, Spain, or Germany, which may strain the country’s job market even further. “We are speaking about up to a million people that have been added in the last months to the population of Romania – specifies Dorin, which is a huge number in the light of the size of our industry and service sector”.
To respond to this situation, JA Romania will particularly encourage young NEETs to take the opportunity to build on their soft skills, such as information and communication technologies. “This is one of the areas we are currently targeting as to improve their chances to be an active part of the economy of the country. The spotlight is now on them – concludes Dorin – and they are very much aware that they need to take action”. Far from coming to a halt, JA Romania is adapting its activities to answer an increasing demand for online courses and mentorship, collaborating with its stakeholders to match the participants in the project with companies or working closely with those who want to start their own business.
NEETs in Entrepreneurship
The NEETs in Entrepreneurship project is funded by Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway through EEA and Norway Grants Fund for Youth Employment and it’s implemented by 6 Junior Achievement member organizations. By the end of the project, 1,600 NEETs in Bulgaria, Italy, Romania and Spain will receive training and acquire the skills needed to find a job or start their own business.
For more details about the project and how to participate, please visit: https://neets-entrepreneurship.org/ro/register.