About 60% of job opportunities will be for workers with university or higher vocational education, while the options for workers with lower educational skills will be almost non-existent (2%)

During the next decade, job opportunities for young people in Spain will improve due to the broad generational change that will take place and that can be reinforced with net job creation if growth consolidates. Employment opportunities will mainly benefit qualified young people -given their level of formal studies and effectively acquired skills -, while the lowest educational levels will remain outside the labour market, increasing, on this basis, the employment inequalities observed during the crisis.

Without public and private initiatives that are much more powerful than existing initiatives aimed at improving the employability of young people with low qualifications, their risk of being excluded from the labour market is very high, according to the report by the BBVA Foundation and the Valencian Institute for Economic Research (IVIE) ‘Training and Employment of Young People in Spain. Recent trends and future scenarios’. Prepared by the researchers Ivie Lorenzo Serrano and Ángel Soler, the study provides an in-depth examination of the labour problems encountered by young people aged 16 to 34 during the latest three crises, the role of training in solving the issue and employment prospects for the coming decade.

Labour advantages of training

Young people with studies beyond compulsory education (from High School and Vocational Training to university) have a higher probability of finding employment. Their advantage over young people with compulsory primary or secondary education reaches 10.7 percentage points for those with a higher professional training cycle and 12.9 points for those with university studies. However, in addition to the many years of education, the skills acquired are also very important, understood as effectively acquired skills and knowledge: good educational attainment increases the likelihood of finding a job by a further 13%, as much as having higher studies.

The relevance of the quality of the training for employability will increase in the next decade, a period in which employment opportunities will focus much more on people with higher qualifications: there will be little work for those who only finish compulsory education (2.2%); in contrast, just over half of the offers (58.4%) will be for those with higher education, university or professional qualifications.

Taking advantage of the job opportunities that will arise for young people in the next decade requires a greater effort in the training of young people and their families, and a better functioning of the educational system at the most basic levels. Reduce school failure and increasing the skills acquired are the ways to improve Spain’s standing in international rankings in this fields.

Relevance of skills

Spain, unlike many OECD countries, has high percentages of young people with low level skills and low percentages with high level skills. Even among young people with higher education, skill levels are low: only 5%, compared to the OECD average of 14.7%. These poor educational results are worrying after the efforts made to facilitate access to education and hardly leave any room for improvement to increase the number of years of study.

The report notes that the persistent high early school drop-out rates must come down; a goal that may be achieved through the promotion of vocational training and earlier career guidance for students. However, the authors point out that the more effort needs to be done to improve the quality and outcomes of learning. In order to explain why the actual acquired skills of young people aged 16 to 24 are 16.2 points below the OECD average, it is necessary to pay attention to the quality of education.

According to the BBVA Foundation and the Ivie Report, the gap between the educational level and the skills that many young people have when they leave the Spanish educational system can and should also be corrected through lifelong training. However, in this field there are weaknesses in the existing supply and determined changes are required in several directions: awareness of youth and families, because their effort is essential to solving the problems; in addition, companies have to be more sensitive to the problem and play a more active role; and the public sector has to develop ambitious policies to reduce the magnitude of the problem of the half a million young people aged 18 to 24 who are looking for work without success but who do not receive training in order to be successful.

The importance of providing training to the unemployed, especially to those with fewer skills, is one of the key elements of the study. Unemployment represents a loss of opportunities to acquire human capital in the workplace and through work experience; in addition, the skills of unemployed people become obsolete while they are unemployed. Both of these risks should be combated by offering young unemployed people dual training – which combines a return to the classroom and work placements -, through active employment policies that are more ambitious than the current plans and which include personalized advice for the unemployed.