A few days ago I was lucky enough to attend the Bilbao Youth Employment Forum, organized by the Novia Salcedo Foundation and which deals with youth employment. After speaking about economic and productive models and corporate organizational culture, we turned to an equally exciting subject: training people to achieve the necessary skills. In order to combat the drama of youth unemployment, our society needs young people to learn the skills the labour market requires.

I support the approach of the development of skills as a key factor in the fight against youth unemployment. However, I believe that that alone is not enough. What are the driving forces that move our young people to acquire these skills? There are all types: personal development, future security, the desire for power or influence, money, family welfare, to help others, etc. There are excellent reasons, good reasons – and let’s be optimistic – not so good reasons. The existence of one or other type determines a person’s development.

Sometimes these driving forces are dreams (youth is the time to dream big); sometimes, they are based on reason, or ideals or natural impulses… There are long, medium and short term driving forces. There are forces that never cease; others have to be relaunched every day. Sometimes the driving force is faulty: an exaggerated desire to excel or to accumulate power and money.

But forgetting the existence of these forces during the education of our young people leads to training without a basis. In addition, it is more difficult to defend a skill-based discourse when there is no driving force behind it. Furthermore, if these forces are deficient, we shall end up filling the labour market with skilled professionals… but without ideals.

The opposite situation generates almost the same level of rejection: unskilled idealists. However, it is a lesser risk; since ideals are an enormous driving force.

Perhaps we should place more emphasis on investigating these driving forces, as they are the basis for building skills. They are also the basis for promoting a healthier organizational culture in companies that will lead to equal opportunities, occupational conciliation…idealistasABC

Recently, the Everis Foundation published a study on the employability of university students. The study shows how companies value the honesty and ethical commitment, the capacity to learn and work as a team of young professionals rather than other skills, such as their technical expertise or being results-oriented. We can already appreciate the effort being made by many educational institutions to incorporate measures that help to awaken dreams and ideals in their students.

I conclude with the words a student wrote to us this week and that show the potential of volunteering in the training of our young people: Let me tell you… When I arrived there, I realized that I was finding it very difficult to adapt to “My World”. At the beginning I found it quite normal, but with the passage of time, I realized that I experienced the maximum degree of happiness there, and that I had fallen in love with the people, children, their way of life, their way of dealing with day to day life with a big smile… It found it difficult to accept, but this experience has changed me: it was a watershed in my life… I am not the same. I do not have the same priorities.

Published in ABC by Rafael Herraiz,  General Manager of Cooperación Internacional.