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Investing in the young

The success of new educational streaming will depend on the cooperation of companies

In Spain there are more than a million young people who have not finished secondary school. At a time when the unemployment rate among people under 25 stands at 52.3 percent, any shortcoming in studies is a direct ticket to joblessness. This is why we can only welcome the new vocational training system approved in the latest Cabinet meeting. The new system includes two forms of obtaining a technical diploma: by way of a new modality of dual vocational training, in which at least a third of the study time takes place in the form of practice in cooperating companies; or directly by way of a company, involving a new training and apprenticeship contract of two to three years’ duration.

Companies may offer this contract to young people between 16 and 30 years of age, though the labor minister announced that in the future, when the economic situation improves, the maximum age will be 25 years. The young people will have a salary equivalent to the minimum wage in the trade in question, and will contribute to the Social Security system. At the end of the contract they will obtain a trade certificate, but if they wish to obtain a Vocational Training diploma they will have to complete their studies in an approved school.

It is to be hoped that this contract will ease the entry in the working world for many young people who are now unemployed, and would otherwise have all doors closed to them, but the success of the new plan will depend largely on the economic situation.

Unlike the young people who receive training by means of this contract, those who receive it within the public vocational training system have no guarantee that the practical work they do in companies will be remunerated. The decree that details the norm leaves open the question of whether the public administrations, or the companies themselves, will put up resources or grants to that end. But if we consider that the practice work ought to be paid, since it contributes productivity to the company, it does not make sense that there should be differences according to the mode of access. This is an absurdity that ought to be corrected.

The new dual system is modeled on the German one, which has produced excellent results in that country. But all the analysts agree the key to this success lies in the general cooperation on the part of the German companies, which in turn stems from a corporate culture in which worker training is seen as an elementary factor in competitiveness. This is not the sort of culture that has so far predominated in Spain, where few businessmen are prepared to invest in intangibles of a sort that they are not certain to capitalize on. This has been demonstrated by the Basque regional government’s vocational training plan, whose results have fallen far short of expectations, due to the dearth of company cooperation. The public system has to improve its educational offering, but the companies have to understand that they will be the principal beneficiaries of vocational training, and that they must put forth greater effort than they have so far done.

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