The rattle of Jesus’ trolley can be heard in the distance. Like every morning this young man, aged 31, arrives at the post office, picks up the letters his supervisor has prepared and leaves for his delivery route. This would be commonplace if it were not because Jesus has a mental disability and joining the labour market came rather late for him, after a long integration process.

62.7% of Spanish youths with disabilities are unemployed according to a study conducted by the recruitment agency, Adecco. Their first job comes later in life than in the case of young people without disabilities. This figure describes the situation of the labour market in Spain, which has ignored 53% of people under the age of 30; making Spain the second EU country, after Greece, with the highest youth unemployment rate.

Although the figures do not differ much from one region to another, Bizkaia displays a different picture according to Txema Franco, CEO of Lantegi Batuak, a business initiative with over 30 years of experience in supported employment. “The agreements with the Berritzegunes, which are the centres that coordinate the education of people with special needs in Bizkaia, lead to a greater connection between education and work, to the point that the needs of the labour market coincide with what it taught in school”, he states.

“A permanent contract sounds like science fiction”

Franco is optimistic because, in spite of the crisis and after the slump in 2013, this year 150 people with disabilities, mostly young people, have found a job in mainstream companies or supported by Lantegi Batuak, which already employs 1,000 young people with disabilities at their work centres. Job opportunities in the service sector (catering, tourism or cleaning) and in the industrial sector, in electronics and operations associated with logistics have increased, but much remains to be done.

The new situation of the labour market and the difficulty of combining job flexibility and stability mean that temporary jobs are the new paradigm. “A permanent contract sounds like science fiction, not only for young people with disabilities but for young people in general. Therefore, the challenge is to improve people’s skills and employability so that they are not left out of the labour market when a contract ends”, says Franco.

Different realities

“The snapshot of a person with a disability and unemployed is that of a woman with a physical disability, secondary studies, from the service sector who is looking for a job”, says Marian Martínez, regional director of FSC Inserta. The human resources company belonging to Fundación Once launched the Never Give Up plan last year. This plan is an initiative co-funded by the European Social Fund aimed at identifying young people with disabilities, helping them look for a job, supporting them with new technologies and offering qualification programmes geared to the work market.

A disability is a situation that presents different realities and, therefore, FSC Inserta provides guidance, training and intermediation, explains Martinez. “We also conduct awareness campaigns to encourage businesses to make the most of the talents of young people with disabilities”. FSC Inserta has also developed a tool,; a platform that bridges the gap between businesses and people with disabilities who are actively seeking employment. 200,000 people have already signed up to the platform.

The goals of Never Give Up are to broker 3,000 contracts, ensure that 6,000 young people receive training and assist 9,000 users by 2015. An ambitious goal in a crisis but essential if we want to ensure that young people like Jesus have the opportunity to work and achieve financial independence.