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An eye for the individual

| Berit Kvam

How do you help young people who are loosing their footing as they enter adulthood? How do you motivate youths who are not in education, employment or training find the right track to their future? These were key questions when the Nordic countries recently discussed how to fight youth unemployment.

Youth unemployment is still the great challenge facing politicians and policy makers, researchers and others trying to find good solutions. We are starting to see what might work. 

This could be “the good meeting”, “bridge building”, “mentor support”, “motivation” or simply having an eye for the individual. When people get help to find out what they are interested in, something happens. The good meeting could be crucial for young people entering adulthood. The good conversation can stop someone from falling outside of the system and help the individual find a meaningful existence. 

“Building a bridge to education” is an example from Denmark. The project has had good results and focuses on mentor support, training and help to find internships which can ease the transition from studying to getting a job.

“It looks like meeting a mentor once a week can help young school-leavers with poor grades,” says the project leader at the Danish Agency for Labour Market and Recruitment. Personal counselling was also one of the elements helping Iceland’s youths into activity when the crisis hit.

The good conversation is also crucial to the project which the Swedish Public Employment Service has started together with the country’s municipalities. At Fryshuset in Stockholm the employment service works with Stockholm City to help young people who are far outside of the labour market. They have often lost faith in society, school, employers and authorities. Yet when they are seen, heard and met where they are, and are allowed to express what it is they want, they are able to move on. But the good conversation is not enough. Skilled helpers like psychologists, job advisors, employment officers are needed — as we discovered in this month’s theme: A Nordic helping hand to marginalised youths.

What nevertheless turns out to be of basic importance for change is that measures aimed at helping marginalised youths into jobs or education must build on the youths’ own inner motivation. You need an eye for the fact that marginalised youths are very different from each other, says the Danish researcher and author of a new book on motivation, Noemi Katznelsons. An eye for change is dependent on having an eye for that difference, also among marginalised youths, an eye for the individual.


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