The second edition of the Bilbao Youth Employment Forum (BYEF) brought together nine economic, social and political experts in the hotel Carlton to discuss the types of changes that are required by the productive model, the organisational culture of companies and the training of young people to promote employment.
The event was organised by the Novia Salcedo Foundation. Its director, Begoña Etxebarria, welcomed the attendees with a brief speech in which she recalled the beginning of the Pegasus project in early 2013, a project that called for the declaration of a Youth Employment Decade, and she stressed that this is “an opportunity for Spain to lead Goal 8 (decent work and economic development) of the Agenda for Sustainable Development” recently adopted by the United Nations
The discussion was moderated by Joaquín Nieto, director of the ILO Office in Spain, who gave the floor to Ángel Toña, regional minister for Employment of the Basque Government. After acknowledging that we “currently have a shortage of jobs, which is generating concern and anxiety among young people”, he suggested, among other issues, identifying the competitive advantages of the Basque economy and strengthening solid public policies that are committed to local development and technological specialisation. In this sense, he highlighted the successful example of clusters, which are sectoral groups that join forces to improve their competitiveness, and he stressed the need to promote the social economy in a country where this type of economy enjoys a long tradition.
The director of the Spanish Youth Institute, Rubén Urosa, reflected on the need to promote tourism, R&D and new technologies instead of the “wrong productive model based on the building sector” which drove the economy in the years prior to the crisis. In an ever more global environment, Urosa stated that “we are heading towards a third revolution involving the energy sector. The way we are able to deal with it will influence the productive model in the future”.
The business point of view was provided by Virginia Múgica, from the Department of Labour Relations of Confebask, who warned that “whoever has not been trained in some type of special skill involving new technologies and in the so-called digital economy within ten years may find themselves forced out of the labour market”. In her opinion, the rapid industrial transformation that is taking place worldwide requires a specialisation strategy based on three key sectors, industry 2.0, bio-science and energy, which are “the fields in which the Basque Country are strongest and that will provide greater levels of well-being”. These sectors need, according to Múgica, “high added value jobs that will have to be covered by workers with high level knowledge”. The forecast is that, until 2020, the demand for jobs in these fields will increase by 14% throughout Europe. The challenge, according to Múgica, will be to prevent people who do not have this high level of training from being marginalised in the labour market.
Unai Sordo and Jesús García, for the Trade Unions CC OO and UGT-Euskadi respectively, stated, against the view of the representative from Confebask, that all the sectors are equally important when it comes to improving economic growth. “We need policies that will encourage demand and reassign resources in a much more conciliatory manner”. There needs to be a discussion within the EU, especially among countries in the south, about the productive model and employability, in which the social agents should play a key role” said Sordo. The head of Studies and Programmes of UGT-Euskadi was of a similar opinion; “the financial system must be at the service of job creation because we shall not be able to overcome this crisis unless we all overcome it”. In this regard, García requested a number of measures, such as a fairer tax system, more resources to boost training and greater investment in research and development.
María José Aranguren, director of the Instituto Orkestra-Basque Competition Institute, expressed similar ideas. “We should not prioritize certain sectors over others because diversification is good for generating added value”, she said. She also encouraged those present to specify the social model required, which would have to include some type of economic balance to prevent social exclusion.
On the other hand, Gorka Maiztegi, Basque Councillor for Youth, regretted that many Basque youths – “the community in which most people train” – have to move to other countries to find jobs. Therefore, he stressed that it is “key” to bring this talent back in order to be able to develop such a specialised productive model as the one the regional administrations want to implement.
Sara de la Rica, professor of economics at the Basque Country University, mentioned the threat to employment posed by the introduction of machinery, “which performs certain tasks more efficiently”. This is a process in which Spain is still “behind in relation to other countries, such as Italy or Slovakia” but that “will accelerate in coming years”. In her opinion, the solution lies in “redirecting work towards things that machines cannot do, such as think, create, adapt, discuss, innovate…”. This worker profile – “people who want to learn” – will be, according to De la Rica, the type most widely demanded by companies that “have no idea of the type of jobs they will need in the future”. The UPV/EHU professor also mentioned the low birth rate as another of the problems threatening the productive model.
“We must progress from competition to cooperation between companies”
The organisational culture of businesses was the second issue addressed by attendees at the BYEF. The regional minister for Employment of the Basque Government, Ángel Toña, called for excellence in corporate management and recommended encouraging the participation of employees. He also warned that workers “tend to act in line with a business’ culture; if it is honest, they will behave honestly”. Finally, he recommended that young people should “identify aspects they know they are good at, their best skills” and develop them to look for a job or become entrepreneurs.
The councillor for Employment, Inclusion and Equality, Teresa Laespada, stressed the need for women to take on their “50% or responsibility” in male-dominated fields. A target that requires a change in the organisation of entities and the implementation of measures to reconcile work and family life more effectively. In this sense, Laespada mentioned certain examples, such as providing crèches in or near work places or allowing men to take more paternity leave. She also advised “progressing from competition to cooperation between companies”
Virginia Múgica, from the department of Labour Relations of Confebask, also stressed that organisational change within a global, changing context “of fierce competition is one of the greatest challenges that we have because if we fail to implement those changes, we are dead”. These changes, according to her, must aspire to achieve a “collaborative environment” that places people at the heart of businesses. “We have to refer to companies in the first person, they must be seen as a common project with high added value, based on knowledge, in which workers are involved”, Múgica said. Information, transparency, communication and participation are the premises on which the new business culture will be based, according to the representative of the business association. An organisational structure in which “work conditions are seen to be equal and conflicts are solved through agreements”.
This internal organisational change proposed by Virginia Múgica was received with scepticism by UGT and CCOO. According to Unai Sordo, labour precariousness makes the existence of this link between worker and company “difficult”. On the other hand, Jesús García was convinced that the organisational culture has to change but towards a “human type of capitalism” where governance and values play a greater role.
The session concluded with the analysis of the role played by training. Comments were made on the gap that exists between the educational system and the labour market, as many studies do not focus on the needs of companies. Unai Sordo stressed the role that social agents can play by identifying the needs of each sector with a view to designing training plans accordingly.
The forum continued in the afternoon with the presentation of four projects that will focus on the issues being discussed at the round table. Participants included Gonzalo Marco, financial director of Salto Systems; Amaia Alorriaga, coordinator of Gestamp Technology Institute, Oskar Álvarez, manager of Asaken and Laura Simón, from the Novia Salcedo Foundation. Later, Manuel Cadarso, head of the Economic Growth and Employment sector at AECID and Joaquín Nieto, director of the ILO Office in Spain, presented the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). Nieto stressed that, for the first time, “there is an ambitious common agenda, with specific goals aimed at all countries, not only developing countries, and that include the environmental variable”. The ILO member mentioned that achieving the SDGs “can happen or not, it depends on all of us, also on civil society”.