The “Lehen Aukera” programme aims to provide new graduates under the age of 30 with their first work experience
Promoting the transfer from education to employment. This is the main goal of the Lehen Aukera (First Opportunity) programme, a plan introduced by the Basque Governing in 2014 through Lanbide and aimed at young people under the age of 30 who have vocational, university, or professional qualifications. The idea is to provide them with their first work experience in line with their studies by means of an indefinite-term contract or work experience, and thus avoid the brain drain affecting the region.
Lehen Aukera aims to open the doors of the labour market to 962 young Basques, who will have the chance to join leading companies in the Basque Country. These figures will add to the data from the 2015 and 2016 campaigns, when, according to the Department of Employment and Social Policy, 1,010 companies participated, and a total of 1,540 contracts were signed.
This new Lehen Aukera programme has been funded with 4 million euros. All Basque graduates under the age of 30 without prior work experience can enrol, as well as any companies prepared to increase their staff and sign work experience contracts for at least 6 months. The people hired will receive a minimum annual gross remuneration which will range from 11,200 euros per annum, for people with vocational training qualifications and those who have certificates of professional standing, to 18,000 euros for higher education graduates and university graduates.
The companies will also benefit. For work experience contracts, they will receive a subsidy of between 2,800 and 4,500 euros based on the qualifications of the person selected. In addition, these amounts will be increased by 10% if the contract is at least for 12 months. Indefinite term contracts will receive a subsidy of between 5,200 and 7,600 euros. These amounts will be increased by 10% if the companies hire women for positions where women are under-represented. There are also incentives for the collaborating entities for each contract signed.
One of the programme’s main conditions is that any contract signed must imply the net creation of jobs when compared with the average number of jobs in the company six months before the new worker joins. The idea is to prevent companies benefiting from a grant to hire staff after firing some of their workers to take advantage of this aid package.
Reducing youth unemployment
This is a tool implemented by the Regional Executive to reduce the youth unemployment rate in the Basque Country as far as possible and to create favourable conditions for employment and programmes that lead to the development of skills that will allow people from this group to access, persevere, and build careers. In addition to the Lehen Aukera programme, the Basque Government has implemented other initiatives to promote the integration of young people into the labour market and promote entrepreneurship in order to reduce the youth unemployment rate in the Basque Country, which, over the last year, has fallen by seven points from 23.2% in the second quarter of 2016 to 15.9% in June. However, this is still far from the overall unemployment rate in the region, which stands at 11%.
Apart from Lehen Aukera, Basque companies with work centres abroad can be eligible to hire unemployed people under the age of 35 for one year at least, six months abroad, to provide them with work experience. The subsidy ranges from 11,800 to 13,100 euros, depending on qualifications.
Hand-over contracts are another possibility. This consists in replacing a worker who is entitled to partial retirement with another person who is under 30 years of age who must be hired full-time and indefinitely from the beginning. This plan has public aid worth one million euros.