France’s National Youth Days allow young people, teachers and entrepreneurs to meet each other in the field and discover little-known professions; the goal is to help them confidently and consciously prepare their future together. Spearheading this project launched 8 years ago, Claudine Schellino assesses these meetings:
What lies behind this wonderful project?
The objective was to help young people integrate the professional universe, seeing as how one of the hurdles is a lack of awareness of available professions. We thus wanted to show them the diversity and wealth of jobs so that they can make the best choices depending on their aspirations. Too often, by default, they go for careers they are not familiar with and do not identify with. I know what I’m talking about, because I was a company boss in the business tourism sector. In that respect, I trained a lot of interns.
I’ve also lectured at universities, and here again observed the discrepancy between the idea young people have of the world of work and reality. I therefore felt that it was important to get involved to help young people understand the professional universe and see it not as something restrictive, but as a playground where they can flourish, test possible paths and – most importantly – choose a career rather than be forced into one.
What have been the most striking comments you’ve received regarding this initiative?
I’ve received a lot, because young people appreciate it when we take an interest in them. I often organise conferences within the framework of which I put young people in the spotlight by letting them have their say. It’s crucial to let them express themselves regarding their ideas, projects, points of view, positions, etc. and for us to be attentive to and considerate of their opinions. They are always very sincere, not to say a little direct, and that touches me greatly.
They have the courage to say they enjoy it, are happy and are always grateful for the attention that is paid to them. Indeed, the more we pay attention to young people and give them the place they deserve, the better the world will become. These inspirational, inquisitive and determined young people who are committed to their future continue to surprise us through their talent and the quality of their ideas.
More than 280,000 young people have met more than 29,000 professionals. Over the eight years this initiative has existed, what do you think has changed the most?
The Department for Education is much more focused on the corporate world. Until fairly recently, schools didn’t want to invite corporate professionals into their classrooms. Today, company visits are an obligatory part of the curriculum, via Parcours Avenir (future path). Teachers are much more engaged and aware of this essential connection that needs to be built with the corporate universe. Entrepreneurs, on the other hand, are not yet showing an eagerness to open up their doors to young people, which is a shame because we have a lot of requests from teachers that we are unable to satisfy.
Entrepreneurs need to understand that they have a major role to play in the professional integration of young people. We talk about CSR, but education is a part of this and they often forget that. I would, though, like to pay tribute to the commitment of some other companies who are participating in this movement, and often have been since the start of the adventure, with the same amount of enthusiasm and commitment.
Are there enough bridges between these two worlds?
Throughout France, initiatives headed by private players, public players and associations are accompanying young people as they strive to build a professional future, numerous companies are training and recruiting young people… But young people are often unfamiliar with these schemes and opportunities, too frequently compartmentalised, restricted to a specific scope. The professional integration of young people remains a major problem, as illustrated by the youth unemployment rate.
Our JNDJ platform is precisely working to provide a simple and efficient framework for these players and for entrepreneurs who want to enhance the appeal of their initiatives and their professions amongst young people. You know, this lack of awareness of jobs generates a shortage of talent due to poor orientation. But there’s never enough!
My ambition is to facilitate access for everyone who is committed to these issues and to break down prejudices to increase, throughout the country, the number of rich and inspirational meetings that give young people a sense of direction and guide them towards careers that are recruiting.
What kind of prejudice are you referring to?
I genuinely have great faith in this young generation; it is crucial to go beyond prejudices and preconceived ideas by creating a collective impetus to benefit young people and their place in our society. All around France, young people are innovating, creating, getting involved, have amazing ideas, proving that they are our strength and our future… However, people are unfamiliar with these initiatives because of a lack of readability, visibility and consistency, and are thus preventing themselves from benefiting from an essential resource.
As a member of the CSA’s Observatoire Éducation et Médias, my aim is to change this disparaging view of today’s youth. They have a vision of the world and work that isn’t always the same as the one adults offer them. They are the “Why” generation, the generation that is already shaping tomorrow’s company; why am I doing this? why should I always work for this company, does it have meaning for me?... To make progress, we need to adapt to them, not the other way round. I firmly believe in intergenerational relations, which can help everyone grow if they are balanced relationships.
I would like young people to be better represented in the media so that they can actively participate in the changes that are transforming today’s world, via their talent, their projects, their achievements. A lot is said about young people, but they are rarely given the opportunity to get their voice heard and too often we speak in their place. Young people are a part of the diversity charter, but this quota is not really increasing. This is illustrated by the fact that they are seldom invited into TV studios or to major debates. What a shame!
Is the same true in other countries?
In Canada, I feel the world of academia and the corporate universe have a much less inhibited relationship. In Switzerland and Scandinavian countries they are much closer to companies too. In my opinion, to make progress in France, we first and foremost have to change our view of the corporate universe and make it an integral part of the education system.
Who better than professionals from all sectors of activity to pass on their passion, their know-how, the richness and variety of their profession to young people? The basis is to start from what one really enjoys without any kind of self-censorship. Everyone needs to be able to bloom in their own place.
The theme of the latest National Youth Day was precisely “Become yourself”…
Yes, because it’s important to confidently and consciously find one’s place. For me, the idea of being conscious, aware, is important because it’s about being in harmony with who you truly are deep down, enjoyment being the real pointer!
What future projects do you have to further sensitise people to these issues?
I’d love to have a national platform; something to showcase inspirational initiatives around the country aimed at helping young people with their career choices and assisting their accompaniment into a job. A genuine forward-planning tool devoted to young people, to parents and to teachers, to help them build their own future.
I have great faith in these young people, and am aware that they carry within them tomorrow’s real potential and genuine values that are waiting to be revealed and expressed.