Earlier today as part of our global YouthSpark initiative we held an event in Brussels with representatives from the public, private and nonprofit sectors to discuss the challenges facing young people in Europe.

Around the world the prolonged economic downturn has disproportionately affected youth and it’s no different in Europe. The unemployment rate for 15-24 year-olds in the European Union has increased by 50 per cent since the onset of the economic crisis, and the youth unemployment rate has reached more than 25 per cent in 13 Member States.

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.

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This is why we launched Microsoft YouthSpark last September.  YouthSpark is a company-wide initiative to empower youth to imagine and realize their full potential by connecting them with greater opportunities for education, employment and entrepreneurship.

Today in Brussels as part of the YouthSpark initiative, we announced the signing of Memoranda of Understanding with three pan-European organizations:

In addition to these three pan-European partnerships we are also providing 27 grants to youth-focused nonprofits in 25 countries across Europe.  We hope these partnerships will create opportunities for 30 million young people across Europe by promoting skills and training that will improve transition to the labor 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.

Speaking at the 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 nonprofits in Europe since 2003 through education, technology skills training and entrepreneurship programmes as well as in-kind technology support. You can find out more at: http://www.microsoft.eu/empowering-youth/

Want to learn more about YouthSpark and the programs available for young people today?  Visit the YouthSpark Hub.

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