BRUSSELS – January 22, 2013 – Microsoft Corp. has announced the signing of Memoranda of Understanding with three pan-European organizations; the European Youth Forum, Telecentre Europe and Junior Achievement – Young Enterprise as part of its commitment to creating opportunities for 30 million young people across Europe. In addition to these three regional partnerships, Microsoft is also providing 27 grants to youth-focused non-profits in 25 countries across Europe.
This announcement is part of Microsoft YouthSpark, a company-wide, global initiative to empower youth to imagine and realize their full potential by connecting them with greater opportunities for education, employment and entrepreneurship. YouthSpark, which brings together a range of Microsoft programs for youth including Partners in Learning, DreamSpark and Imagine Cup, aims to create opportunities for 300 million youth in more than 100 countries during the next three years.
Microsoft will provide Telecentre Europe, the European Youth Forum and Junior Achievement with financial resources and software grants to promote skills and training that will improve transition to the labour market, foster proactive citizenship that engages young Europeans in the online democratic debate as well as fostering work-readiness, talent and entrepreneurial spirit to support young people in finding work through quality traineeships and internships.
The prolonged economic downturn has disproportionately affected Europe’s youth. In the EU, unemployment among 15-24 year-olds has increased by 50 per cent since the onset of the crisis, and the youth unemployment rate has reached more than 25 per cent in 13 Member States. Youth unemployment is aggravating the crisis. According to the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions a total of 14 million people in the 15 to 29 age group can be classified as NEET (not in employment, education or training), costing the EU €3 billion per week in state welfare and lost production. At the same time four million jobs are vacant in the EU due to a mismatch between the skills of the unemployed and the skills required for available jobs.
This issue has become a priority for European policymakers, who have undertaken a series of recent actions aimed at increasing assistance and opportunities for youth, including a Youth Employment Package. Ireland is also set to address the critical levels of youth joblessness across Europe during its current EU Presidency.
Speaking at an event in Brussels with the European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth, Androulla Vassiliou, to announce the Memoranda of Understanding, Brad Smith, Microsoft Executive Vice-President commented: “Young people in Europe are facing an opportunity divide – a gap between those who have the access, skills, and opportunities to be successful and those who do not. Bridging this gap is a key concern for all of us, and we are committed to partnering with government leaders throughout the region to unlock the full potential of youth as a key driver of the region’s economic growth. Equipping young Europeans with eSkills will set the course for Europe to emerge from recession as a truly united and competitive global player based on a digitally connected society.”
Microsoft has been supporting non-profits in Europe since 2003 through education, technology skills training and entrepreneurship programmes as well as in-kind technology support.