Successful event for the launch of the ALMA-initiative
The launch event on implementing the new ALMA initiative ("Aim, Learn, Master, Achieve") took place in Ljubljana, Slovenia, from 19-20 May 2022.
The members of the transnational learning network TLN Mobility, who already have experience implementing transnational mobility programmes for disadvantaged youth, shared their expertise at the event and gave recommendations based on their practical experience. In addition to facilitating the sharing of experiences, the meeting’s goal was to get further member states/regions to participate in the ALMA initiative. The meeting was held by the European Commission, the transnational learning network "TLN-Mobility" and Slovenia’s employment service.
"Today’s meeting is about getting together to join efforts to support young people," said EU Commissioner Nicolas Schmit in a video message to the conference participants.
Young people who were already facing some social difficulties were particularly affected [by the pandemic]. (...) Many of them are now not in employment, education or training. (...) We owe them the opportunity to prove themselves. (...) This is what ALMA will offer them."
The Director of Slovenia’s employment service, Mitja Bobnar, expressed agreement:
We need all young people. Those who are already well educated and already have work experience, but also those who are disadvantaged."
The ALMA initiative, which has introduced by President of the European Commission von der Leyen in September 2021, is aimed at giving precisely these young people (NEETs: Not in Employment, Education or Training) the opportunity to gain work experience abroad. The EU is thus adopting the successful approach of Germany’s exchange programme Integration through Exchange (IdA) which is part of the "Federal ESF Integration Directive" and the mobility programmes of the other members of the TLN network. These mobility programmes offer disadvantaged young people the chance to work in another EU country in order to gain a foothold in their home labour market.
Markus Löbbert, the head of the responsible division at Germany’s Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, highlighted the positive experiences people have with IdA:
The programme often leads to strong personality development for the participants and opens up new prospects for them. It gives them the freedom to take new paths. In this case, the abbreviation "ESF" stands not only for the European Social Fund, but also for "Europe spreads freedom."
Mitja Bobnar also emphasised this positive experience:
The experience of mobility changed them (the young people) in a positive way, they gained skills and work experience and lost their fears of living and working abroad."
The conference in Ljubljana was aimed specifically at ESF managing authorities from other EU member states and regions interested in participating in ALMA. The conference built on the launch event for ALMA with policy makers held on 12 May 2022, which was co-hosted as part of the European Year of Youth by the European Commission and France. In various workshops and lectures, members of the network provided insights into the different aspects and challenges of implementing the exchange programmes.
The European Commission also presented its further planning for the initiative. The national ESF Plus ALMA programmes of the participating states and regions are to be supported by a central ALMA coordination facility. This facility is expected to start its activities at the end of 2022. Also by the end of 2022, there will be an EU-wide call to provide additional funding from the European Commission for ALMA pilot programmes. The transnational learning network "TLN-Mobility" will be supported by the ALMA coordination facility in the future.
In total, over 50 participants from 14 EU Member States attended the event in Ljubljana. Other interested parties were able to follow the opening event via live stream.
The event was a great success and will help the ALMA initiative move forward,"
said Fabienne Levy, head of the EU Commission’s unit responsible for ALMA. During the conference, participants from Slovakia and Greece reported on concrete steps already taken to implement their own ALMA programmes. Many of the other participating countries and regions expressed great interest in the initiative and said they would like to participate in the TLN network. Of the current TLN members, Germany, Sweden, Slovenia, and the Czech Republic will renew their current ESF Plus mobility programmes, as will the regions of Trento (Italy) and Catalonia (Spain).