Erasmus, Youth Employment Initiative (YEI), framework for an efficient and quality apprenticeship... in order to fight against youth unemployment, the European Union has at its disposal different policies. Interviewed by “Toute l’Europe”, the MEP and former minister Jean Arthuis (LaREM) says he is in favour of an increase of European money allocated to youth and professional training of young people. But Member States should then “take advantage” of the European tools.

The Council of the European Union wishes appropriations of the 2019 budget allocated to growth, employment and professional training to be reduced by 764 million of euros in comparison to 2018. Why?

In May, the European Commission presented its draft budget for the year 2019, which is part of the 2014-2020 Multiannual Financial Framework. It tries to face new needs, notably those linked to migrations. Following this stance, the Council decided to make some cuts as usual: this is a rather technocratic act to which governments shaping the Council do not really take part.

Then, the Parliament also scrutinized the draft budget: it largely restored the appropriations proposed by the Commission because it is the institution which the most able to assess the level of needs. We added several specific priorities such as growth and financial aid for SMEs. And we also aim to put the emphasis on everything which concern youth and notably professional qualification of young people. We think Erasmus contributes directly and therefore its appropriations should be increased. This issue will be at the core of the discussions, for sure intense, between the Parliament and the Council as an agreement between both institutions is needed for the adoption of the budget.

For 2019, can we consider an increase of European appropriations allocated to Erasmus? More generally, what can the EU do to support professional training and apprenticeship?

First, we have to consider that the EU has no competences for education and professional training. Therefore these are solutions provided due to circumstances. In this case, an instrument can largely help to fight against youth unemployment in Europe: the development of professional training and apprenticeship. We can see that EU countries which have a culture of apprenticeship rooted in the economic and social landscape almost not face youth unemployment. This is true for Germany, the Netherlands, Austria and we could add Switzerland if it were a member of the EU.

So we wish to develop it and we think Erasmus can contribute because it enables exchange of good practices. It also gives the opportunity to change families’ eyes on apprenticeship by defending the principle that apprentices, as such as students, can have access to Erasmus grants and leave during long periods. Erasmus Pro - the Erasmus part for apprentices and people following a professional training - will receive 400 million between 2018 and 2020.

The Member States have a determining role in the implementation of this European policy supporting professional training and apprenticeship. Do they do enough?
They have to take advantage of the tools and harmonise their own legislations in order to enhance mobility. For instance, the EU has adopted a recommendation on “an apprenticeship of quality and efficient” [this recommendation gives a series of criteria to frame apprenticeship and ensure its quality and efficiency, Editor’s Note]. But it implies that all Member States seize this model in order to introduce it in their national legislations. The Member States do not do enough, we must put pressure on them. They do not take sufficient actions to harmonise their legislations. This is the problem of a Europe that remains an addition of national egoisms.

For instance, does a French unemployed person is informed that the EU invests to support professional training?

No, I do not think it is perceived by Europeans. I believe Member States are trying to recover money. That is like the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund (EGF) [this fund co-finances career changes following massive redundancies, Editor’s Note]: I fairly doubt that beneficiaries are aware that it is Europe which participates to the funding of their training. Things are more visible when Europe contributes to the support for training and apprenticeship through Erasmus mobility, because the young person moves from one EU country to another. And he is aware that it is Europe which gives him the opportunity.

The multiannual financial framework for 2021-2027 is currently negotiated within European institutions. What will be the appropriations allocated to professional training?

The first thing is the doubling of appropriations for Erasmus: 30 billion of euros over 7 years. The European Parliament has proposed to triple those appropriations. Because by doubling Erasmus, we already allow all those who ask for Erasmus grants to benefit from it - one demand over two is rejected due to a lack of money. But by multiplying by three, we are able to welcome numerous apprentices and trainees from the professional training. We can add the Discover Europe programme, which should receive 700 million of euros and allow young people of 18 years old to discover Europe during their holidays. Then, the Youth Employment Initiative [this European programme supports the training of young people in regions where the employment rate of people under 25 years old is higher than 25%, Editor’s Note] should be doubled, but it is integrated in the European Social Fund (ESF). Knowing that within the ESF there is also a section of 761 million of euros especially dedicated to employment. Finally, the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) could be usefully mobilised to build professional training centres for apprentices and equip them with materials and furniture.

What is your opinion on the European reform of professional training and apprenticeship, promulgated on 5 September?

It is going in the right direction. We already see, during this start of the school year, that registrations in apprenticeship are growing. Muriel Pénicaud [Minister of Labour, Editor’s Note] asked me a report on how to lift burdens to mobility. The first was legislative: initially, the French supervisor was requested to pay his apprentice even though he was in another country and was responsible in case of any accident. Those provisions have been abolished. But this burden has also to disappear in the partnering countries because we also would like our apprenticeship masters to welcome apprentices coming from other countries. The mutual recognition of skills acquired has also to be solved, but it is close to be done. It concerns professional knowledge but also professional experiences in order to let academic authorities of countries delivering diplomas taking into account the six previous months spent in another country. Overall, this means we have to go towards an harmonisation of diplomas in order to ensure mobility.

Remarks collected by Ms Justine Daniel, for | Translated from French