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Policies Supporting Young People in their Life Course. A Comparative Perspective of Lifelong Learning and Inclusion in Education and Work in Europe

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - YOUNG_ADULLLT (Policies Supporting Young People in their Life Course. A Comparative Perspective of Lifelong Learning and Inclusion in Education and Work in Europe)

Reporting period: 2017-03-01 to 2019-02-28

Most European Lifelong Learning (LLL) policies have been designed to create economic growth and guarantee social inclusion. YOUNG_ADULLLT studied how different LLL policies are compatible with each other in terms of their orientations and objectives and how each policy considers the needs of ‘young adults’. Second, it researched the (un)intended effects of policies on young adults. It looked into relevant social developments such as life course destandardisation processes and into an emerging new political economy of skills. Third, YOUNG_ADULLLT generated new knowledge about regional and local policymaking, with particular attention to actors, dynamics, and trends. By focusing on their regional/local context, it examined the interaction and complementarity of LLL policies with other sectors of society, thus contributing to a better understanding of current fragmentation and discrepancies, illuminating parameters for future decision-making.
The project contributed new knowledge of the impact of LLL policies on young adults’ life courses, yielding insights on the conditions, strategies, and necessities for policies to become effective. It provided insights on the innovations and potentials they unlock, in particular with view to informal/non-formal learning to better address groups in vulnerable positions. The objectives of the project were
− to understand the relationship and complementarity between LLL policies and young people’s social conditions and assessing their potential implications and intended/unintended effects on young adults’ life courses;
− to analyse LLL policies in terms of young adults’ needs as well as their potential for successfully recognising and mobilising the hidden resources of young adults for their life projects;
− to research LLL policies in their embeddedness in regional economies, labour markets and individual life projects of young adults, identifying good practices and patterns of coordinating policy-making at local/regional level.
Research in the second period of the project covered the data collection, treatment and analysis. Based on the mapping and review of 183 policies in 18 Functional Regions in period 1, partners selected 54 policies for further policy analysis. In trying to understand the structural relationships of these policies, partners have created a quantitative data set with key aspects of regional living conditions. They also conducted semi-structured interviews with young adults (N=164), managers and street-level professionals (N=121) as well as with regional and local policy-makers and stakeholders (N=81) in order to capture the interaction of LLL policies and young adults’ views and to analyse skills supply and demand in local skills ecologies. Finally, further examining different skills ecologies, they have compiled a data set for analysis of policy documents (N=129) that focused on orientations (interests, frames of reference) that influence skills and LLL activities for young adults.
During the analysis and reporting phase 18 case studies were conducted; analyses concentrated on their main aims, targets, and ways of implementation as well as on relevant contextual features in terms of structural dimensions and young adults’ living conditions. The comparative analyses integrated the different data sets and methodologies and aimed at yielding knowledge on varying patterns of policy-making in LLL by applying an interpretive approach to policy analysis. Results were discussed and shared in Policy Roundtables (N=20) with diverse stakeholders (N=206) in every region studied. Partners disseminated findings on international and national conferences, workshops, seminars as well as through manifold communication media (websites, newsletters, flyers, interviews, etc.) and other dissemination activities (N=170), reaching academic, general public, and policy audiences.
YOUNG_ADULLLT case studies revealed mixtures of metagovernmental constellations that traverse local and regional policy-making. Different patterns of policy-making are embedded in these styles of governance, which were distinguished along three stages – planning, regulation, and provision. The project elaborated on these stages to develop a reflexive tool for re-considering the particular steps in policy-making process and open up the space for a deepened reflection and deliberation.
The project pushed forward the state-of-the-art by combining theoretical perspectives, multi-level analysis and mixed-method approaches. This innovative approach was strengthened by probing new analytical units, such as the category of Functional Regions, by expanding the understanding of LLL programmes or by envisaging reflexive ways of countering imbalances and disparities in LLL policy-making.
The comparative case studies helped grasp the complexity of inter-relations in LLL policy-making, thus leading to a deepened interrogation of causalities, functionalities and peculiarities of each case. Analyses made a strong case for listening to the voices of young adults and including them more concretely in the policy-making process. Apart for this, the project has broken new ground for studying local and regional structural environments, especially highlighting the need for context-sensitiveness.
In responding to the Call Young-3-2015, the project generated new knowledge on the impact of LLL policies on young adults´ life courses and to study how unearthing their hidden potentials can stir economic growth and guarantee social inclusion of groups in vulnerable positions. The results and findings of YOUNG_ADULLLT research project have several important societal implications:
First, since the end of the last century, there is an ongoing debate on the role of education in promoting economic wealth. Investing into the education systems, including LLL policies, is seen as key factor of a successful and sustainable development. YOUNG_ADULLLT´s findings contest the assumed linear relationship between work and education, as they highlight the need for a more independent and holistic education, one that cultivates not only skills and competencies of a future labour work force, but creates learning environment for critical thinking, self-realisation, emotional and spiritual growth, as well as social compassion and responsibility.
Second, attention was devoted to understanding youth´s living conditions, transition and experiences of vulnerability. YOUNG_ADULLLT argued that by looking into highly heterogeneous and de-standardised life courses of young adults that the chance of understanding their visions, desires and needs rises significantly. Based on these assumptions, YOUNG_ADULLLT´s findings challenge the common notion of young adults as ‘unwilling’ or ‘passive’ recipients of social benefits, including education, but as active shapers not only of their lives, but also of the future of their communities, families and societies.
Third, YOUNG_ADULLLT looked into how policies at local and regional levels are designed and developed and how the interrelations within as well as between Functional Regions shape the local dynamics and general social environment. In this regard, YOUNG_ADULLLT has strongly emphasised the rising importance of Functional Regions and local and regional policy-making, since the more the local specificities are accounted for, the higher the chance for a pluriversal, dynamic and united European community.