From an attentive analysis conducted prior to the project beginning, Italian Not in Education, Employment, or Training (NEET) youngsters, especially those aged 25-29, were facing major challenges entering the labor market during and after Covid-19 pandemic. The Intercept project was born to respond to the need of helping these NEETs in finding an internship or a training path that could help them to enter the labor market. The initial target of the Italian pilot project were NEETs aged 25-29 living in the Tuscany provinces of Siena and Grosseto, areas that were deemed to be in particular need of support.
Anci Toscana, as Italian pilot coordinator, started to work on the project with the intention to activate green internships and training in these provinces.. To achieve this, Anci Toscana started a collaboration with ARTI, the regional body responsible for internship activations. During this collaboration Anci Toscana and ARTI have been promoting the project among local institutions, companies and NEETs. ARTI is in charge of promotion, orientation, matching, activation and monitoring of the internships, while Anci Toscana manages the pilots, the internships promotion and their financing.
As in Malta and in Lithuania, also in Tuscany the project was designed to include 25 hours of training on green skills and green economy and 3 months of training on the job (internship).
The project has so far helped many young people in accessing valuable training and job experiences although the number of internships which have been activated still remains lower than expected. The internships offered to the Tuscan NEETs are various and related to different green fields: from experiences in marketing offices for green energy companies, to experiences in sustainability sectors of municipalities and companies, to experiences in biological agriculture.
The youngsters immediately responded positively to the project call and many applications were received. Companies and local institutions have also responded well to the project call, even if some of them have needed help in understanding and defining if and why they could be defined as green. Generally speaking, the numbers of applications received from both NEETs and companies are very satisfying. Specifically, the applications received from NEETs were of a much larger number than expected which indicates that young people have appreciated this kind of initiative in the region.
One of the first challenges of the project was to deal with the many applications that arrived from different areas of Tuscany from the ones initially considered. This made Anci Toscana realize that there was the need to expand the project action to all the region. Further analysis confirmed that NEETs trends and characteristics were similar in all the region. For this reason a project modification was requested and obtained. From January onwards, the Italian pilot was thus extended to all the Tuscany provinces.
During this period a lot has been learnt about Tuscan NEETs, their characteristics, necessities and challenges. The initial analysis had pointed out that the majority of NEETs in Tuscany are female, and this has been now confirmed by the project statistics that register that most of the enrolled NEETs and current interns are female (58% of activated internships are females, and 80% of those who completed the internships are female).
Another interesting data is that the majority of the current interns have at least the highschool diploma, and most of the females actually also have a bachelor or a master degree. This pointed out the existence of a gender gap in the region, where being male with a high level of education leads to major job opportunities. However, the project also registered the enrollment of males with high education struggling to enter the job market, highlighting the current challenges of the Italian market, in which the demand seems to exceed the offer. This emerges also dealing with the companies that are usually willing to host only interns that reflect their specific requests. This still represents a great challenge for the project, and it is still one of the major problems in matching NEETs with companies and entities.
However, great work was done by both Anci Toscana and ARTI in order to raise awareness about the great need to give youngsters an opportunity to gain experience in the job market. Many phone calls and direct contacts were undertaken in order to talk directly with companies, explaining the project and its final aim. These actions fortunately worked in some cases, and currently the activations are growing, as also the contacts between companies and NEETs.
Even if the number of internships is currently growing, there is another big challenge that the Italian pilot tried to face. As soon as the project promotion started and the first matchings were encouraged, it became apparent that the 3 months internship wasn’t appropriate for the Italian and Tuscan labor market since the great majority of internships in Italy lasts at least 6 months. Event “Youth Guarantee” internships are usually activated for 6 months at the beginning, and then they can be prolonged for another 6 months..This means that proposing a 3 month internship is not appealing for a company that needs more time to test and eventually retain a job resource. At the same time 3 months internship is not really appealing for young people as well, as it is a too short experience to insert in the CV, it could not be considered as valuable experience as a longer one from other companies, and the time to acquire and learn new skills is limited. Considering all of these factors, Anci Toscana attempted to extend the possibility for NEETs and companies to extend the internships to 6 months. However for evaluation needs, the project evaluation partners denied this possibility. Anci Toscana believes this is a real lost opportunity, as more internships could have been activated, more funds could have been spent for the benefit of NEETs, and young people could have been offered with more suited opportunities.
As this was not possible, Anci Toscana is still strongly promoting the project trying to raise as much awareness as possible. This has helped in raising the internships numbers, but Anci Toscana still believes that better numbers could have been achieved with longer internships. This learning experience will lead Anci Toscana to suggest this change in duration for further projects or policies directed towards NEETs.
Another lesson learnt from project implementation, is that Anci Toscana has recognised the need to distinguish between different kinds of NEET in order to better tackle their needs and necessities. For example, there are graduated NEETs, NEETs with a diploma, NEETs with a school diploma, migrant NEETs, NEETs who don’t speak Italian, disabled and autistic NEETs. Anci Toscana believes that all of these NEETs have different needs, especially when training is considered. Anci Toscana planned the same training for every NEETs taking part in the project. The training consists of 25 hours of video lessons prepared and registered by a green economy expert. This training was generally really appreciated by the interns, however the majority of the current interns are Italians and highly educated ones. It was less appreciated and understood by different kinds of NEETs, such as migrants and less educated ones.This consideration could be important for training reasons and for work experiences as well. For example, Anci Toscana noticed that educated NEETs have certain training and job needs, while migrant NEETs have totally different ones. Implementing projects and further policies taking into account the fact that currently in Tuscany there are several kinds of NEETs with different training and job needs could be useful and more efficient in achieving the project’s goals..
All the project challenges brought Anci Toscana able to redefine its actions in order to keep the project objectives on track. Even when it wasn’t possible to change and adapt the project, Anci Toscana treasured all the learnings in order to suggest good practices for future projects and policies.
Generally speaking, the project is giving good results, even considering all the difficulties encountered. NEETs of Tuscany are taking part in the project, appreciating the training, and some of them also had the possibility to sign a contract in the same place in which they did the internship. Companies also had the possibility to better comprehend their green fields and potentials, while giving the possibility to young people to grow professionally . Anci Toscana believes that a lot still needs to be done for tackling NEETs challenges and needs, but this project has been definitely a good beginning to give work opportunities to young people. Above all, INTERCEPT was especially relevant for Anci Toscana to better comprehend NEETs needs and to suggest solutions and improvements for future policies and projects.