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New chance

Johanna Schmeller / db December 10, 2013

Leading companies have been using youth employment initiatives to recruit young people from southern European countries grappling with unemployment. It appears to be a win-win situation.

Nestlé Youth Employment Initiative
Image: Nestlé Deutschland

According to the OECD, one out of three Spaniards is currently unemployed. Europe's average unemployment rate is significantly lower at 10 percent; and in Germany and Austria, just one out of 20 are unemployed.

The situation is worst for people younger than 25. Eurostat reports that Spain, a country with 46 million inhabitants, recorded about 950,000 unemployed youth in the fall of 2013. Germany, with a population of about 82 million, recorded 350,000 young people without jobs at the same time.

But now, international companies have latched onto this as an opportunity. New employment initiatives seek to harness young talent, while at the same time providing real opportunities.

Abstract figures, real problems

Youth unemployment represents a challenge for international corporations. Many are changing their public relations concepts and company policies to include recruitment of young people.

Social involvement is a strong motivating factor, Nestlé Germany spokesman Alexander Antonoff said: "Nestlé is present in every European country, with its own companies and brands, so we thought about the contribution industry and the economy could make in fighting youth unemployment." Antonoff added that the goal is to also improve the employment situation in the countries of origin.

Young person walking down steps next to a wall
Spain's youth, a lost generation?Image: picture-alliance/dpa

Shortage of skilled workers

Such initiatives have come about as a result of demographic changes, social scientist Hilmar Schneider told DW. "That's what always happens when you realize there's a lack of young talent in the country," Schneider said.

German businesses regard recruiting young people from abroad as "the second-best solution," Schneider said. "There's quite a bit of effort involved: they have to not only communicate the content of their qualifications, but also overcome language barriers," he said. But when skilled labor is lacking, large corporations tend to more willing to go the extra mile train for general skills, Schneider added.

Nestlé initiated two separate programs for young southern Europeans. The three-year programs involve bringing Spanish students to Germany for one year as trainees, and giving Portuguese trainees the opportunity to spend six months in German branch offices.

Demonstration at Puerta del Sol, Madrid
Spain's unemployed youth has also taken to the streets to protest their situationImage: picture-alliance/dpa

Apart from qualifying the young people for a job, the company plans to create full-time jobs for 10,000 young southern Europeans, beginning in 2014. About 2,000 people under the age of 25 are to be offered on-the-job training.

But Nestlé's efforts are not entirely altruistic, Antonoff added: "Of course we are doing this to find young talent for the company, too."

Diversity an opportunity

German firms appreciate certain advantages of foreign youth: "People from other cultures have an entirely different approach toward solving problems," Schneider said, adding that "It's refreshing: the Germans can learn from their colleagues."

Diversity is another reason for drawing young workers from other countries to Germany, as such diversifying programs "are very much in vogue in many major companies."