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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 1 - 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: 2016-03-01 to 2017-02-28

A large number of young people in Europe face difficult transitions from schooling to work life, leaving formal education either too early or lacking the necessary and adequate qualifications and skills for a successful entry into the labour market. This has severe impacts both at individual and societal levels in terms of personal and economic growth as well as in terms of social inclusion and cohesion. In particular, in the current economic context of post-recession after the financial crisis of 2008, the social and economic situation of young adults has deteriorated. Furthermore, the living conditions of young adults across European societies vary substantially, which creates different challenges for young people to be able to cope with societal needs and expectations and to integrate these successfully in their life styles. In order to be able to develop sustainable life projects, young people have to be enabled to create subjective meaning and continuity along the different phases, domains, and spheres of their life courses.
Against this background, the project “Policies supporting young Adults in their life course. A Comparative Perspective of Lifelong Learning and Inclusion in Education and Work in Europe”, in short YOUNG_ADULLLT, focuses on LLL policies for young adults – particularly those in ‘vulnerable’ positions – with the aim to analyse critically current developments of LLL policies in Europe. These developments have been characterised by a fragmentation of the numerous initiatives taken by a large number of actors regarding LLL policies in particular and adult education policies in general and reveal the persistent weaknesses and ineffectiveness of these measures and initiatives. The aim of YOUNG_ADULLLT is to review these policies and to prevent ill-fitted measures from further exacerbating existing imbalances and disparities as well as to identify best practices and patterns of coordinated policy-making at local/regional level. The argument is that it is by looking into these regional and local contexts that policies are best understood and assessed. Thus, the research focus offers three different entry points: LLL policy, young adults and regional/local landscapes. The entry points also represent different theoretical entry points that guide the work within the project: Cultural Political Economy (CPE), Life Course Research (LCR) and Governance Studies (GOV) (Figure 1).
In doing so, YOUNG_ADULLLT breaks new ground in a number of ways and expands the state-of-the-art in terms of combining different perspectives to the analysis of LLL policies for young adults. It combines different theoretical, methodological and disciplinary traditions and approaches in a multilevel analytical framework with the aim of appropriately conceptualising the research object. Therefore, the objectives of the project are
• 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;
• to identify best practices and patterns of coordinating policy-making at local and regional levels.
The first year of the project has been dedicated to three main aspects: first, launching of the project, second, disseminating the project’s preliminary results and, third, setting up a project infrastructure. The launching of the project entailed the development of a common theoretical, conceptual and methodological framework in a State of the Art Report, including the development of the overall and Work Package specific research questions that guide the work in each Work Package and the combination of different methodological approaches in a comparative multi-level design. One major outcome is the development of research hypotheses along all three theoretical perspectives. Drawing on these theoretical and conceptual foundations, the first step of the empirical work has been the mapping and analysis of current LLL policies in each of the participating countries. The main results include the definition and selection of Functional Regions as suitable research sites, the identification of common issues and diverging developments of LLL policies and tensions and challenges in implementing LLL policies across the different countries. Further, in this research step, pre-conditions for coordinated policy-making were tentatively identified, which will be investigated and probed in subsequent phases of the project.
All partners have been actively involved in the dissemination of the project amounting to about 52 activities with an audience of about 550.000 ranging from National Advisory Boards to conference presentations to radio interviews. In doing so, identifying relevant stakeholders, work has also been dedicated to Ethical Issues of the research and dissemination process by drafting a Working Paper on Ethical Issues as well as securing ethical approvals of all participating institutions in the Consortium.
The first year of the project also involved the set-up of a management infrastructure (i.e. establishing an internal project operational and communication structures, for instance a Quality Assurance Plan, a project server) and promoting the project online (launch of project website: and in the media (i.e. press releases and interviews of team leaders in national/local newspapers).
The project goes well beyond the state-of-the-art, as it is an ambitious and multifaceted venture in terms of theoretical, disciplinary and social focus and its anticipated impact. During the first year, the focus of the project has been dedicated to the development of a new complex and multi-angled research framework, bringing together different theoretical perspectives, multi-level analysis and multi-method application in an unprecedented manner. Adopting the concept of Functional Regions for empirical research is one example of innovation. In particular, by integrating all Work Packages strongly within the overall research framework and with each other, the project presents innovative results in terms of theory application, methodological usage, but also valuable and rigorous results of policy analysis for the professional and policy communities.
Thus, the expected impact of YOUNG_ADULLLT is manifold at various levels of policy-making and for the various stakeholders (public, private and business) involved in LLL policy-making. By incorporating different theoretical perspectives (CPE, LCR, GOV), the project provides valuable insights into the construction and impact of LLL policies from different points of view for different stakeholders. In the past year, all national teams have assembled National Advisory Boards to facilitate communication between the project and policy-makers, education providers and labour market actors. The composition of the NABs reflects the wide range of expertise and work context of the targeted stakeholders. The venture also has been disseminated among the scientific community by presenting the project at (international) conferences and research seminars.
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Young_Adulllt: thematic entry points