Youth unemployment in Corona times despite unfilled apprenticeships – Sindbad
We hear it again and again: Every entry into the job market is difficult. For this reason, Sindbad has launched a mentoring program that is intended to help young people make this entry into working life easier. But how does this project work in Corona times, and why are there still so many unfilled apprenticeship positions in Austria? Lydia Körber from “Sindbad – Mentoring für Jugendliche” answers these and other questions in the following interview.
SH: At Sindbad, you work to ensure that young people in their final year of compulsory schooling have a mentor who can help them gain access to the primary labor market or further education. However, there are currently around 14,000 unfilled apprenticeship positions in Austria, and the trend continues to rise. What could be the reason for this?
I think it’s due to different factors. On the one hand, expectations versus reality. Young people usually have a completely different idea of a profession or its training. On the other hand, the expectations placed on young people by the apprenticeship companies are very high, which are difficult for young people aged 14 – 16 to fulfill (especially in the entry tests).
Focus also plays a role here. In applications, apprenticeship companies usually focus on basic skills (German, mathematics…) and less on personal strengths: Motivation, interest, etc. Many young people who may not be “top students” at school, but who show great motivation and stamina, quickly fall through the cracks. Personal contact is very important here – the opportunity to come to an interview can already make a big difference.
And the lack of prospects certainly also plays a role here. Young people often don’t know what opportunities or apprenticeships are available and how to apply. There is a lack of targeted information and visibility of companies here. And of course mobility. Young people between the ages of 14 and 16 are rather limited in terms of mobility (for example, they do not have a driver’s license). This means that apprenticeship companies in the immediate vicinity are more likely to be sought. This does not make it easy for training companies in the countryside.
SH: We are still in the times of the Covid-19 pandemic. Company internships and trial weeks at companies have often been canceled because of this. Could you feel the effect that this pandemic had on the number of your mentees, and to what extent has Corona changed your work?
The time during the Corona pandemic was and is not an easy one. Especially not for our young people. The loss of work experience days, internships, etc. was a major obstacle when looking for apprenticeships. Young people have not had the opportunity to look at professions/companies directly in practice. This is enormously important, especially for the reality check. Instead, the students had to sit in front of laptops or cell phones at home for at least 7 hours in order to follow the lessons.
Our mentoring teams, as much as the measures allowed, met for walks. These analog meetings were hugely important to motivate mentees and build rapport. In the hard lockdown, we held our modules or workshops online. These were surprisingly well received.
SH: At Sindbad, volunteers are involved as mentors for young people. How do you make sure that everything runs smoothly – what do you have to look out for? What are the main reasons why mentors get involved with Sindbad?
It starts with the recruitment of our mentors*. They have to go through a five-step application process: attending an information evening, going through an expectations check, a boarding interview with a member of the site team, bringing a criminal record, and attending the kick-off event. Once our volunteers come into action, they are accompanied by the site team. There are workshops and various offers that they can take advantage of (such as rhetoric training, information sessions on the school and apprenticeship system in Austria, etc.).
I think the motivation of the volunteers is very different: Many simply want to support because they know how difficult it is to get an apprenticeship or training position. Others are also looking forward to the compensation for their office work because they can get in contact with different people here.
SH: What would you like to see in the future for your vision, what needs to change?
Our claim “We create relationships” is what we can do. We cannot guarantee any young person to find an apprenticeship or a place at a secondary school. What we can do, however, is bring together a wide variety of young people from different walks of life and, ideally, both sides learn from each other. For the future, we would like every young person in Vienna to have the opportunity to participate in the Sindbad Mentoring Program. The mentoring program should be firmly anchored not only at Vienna’s secondary schools but also at Polytechnic schools and specialized secondary schools. Youth unemployment is an issue that must be tackled with public funds and political support. In this respect, there is still a lot of potential for improvement.