The “Getting Europe Working” Youth Summit was part of the campaign Re-launching Europe: our alternative vision for the future being run by the Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament.
Speakers at the conference included Labour leader Ed Miliband, and other European social democrat politicians such as Hannes Svoboda, the leader of our political group in the European Parliament. But it also included local businesses, skills providers and other organisations working with the young unemployed. And there were young people, lots of them, from across Europe.
It would be difficult to fully cover all the stories of the weekend. Some were depressing: the young woman who was told at her primary school that people like her didn’t go to university; the law graduate told by the job centre that she should give up her position as a local councillor or employers would not take her on.
But there were stories of hope too. There were visits to wonderful organisations such as Right Track and Futures, and a seminar with Nottingham Forest in the Community, all working with local youngsters to give them hope and opportunity.
The list of contributors, local and international, was impressive. It included two young women entrepreneurs, Katrina Atherton of A star media, and Melanie Ullyatt, Derbyshire Times “Entrepreneur of the Year, who runs One to One Support Services. It also included Lawrence Dobie, from Vital Skills Training which provide training for apprenticeships, and Mike Gibson who runs the Bolsover District Council apprenticeship programme.
We had started the weekend with a depressing scenario; what can we do in the present economic climate, when governments’ only response is austerity measures?
Of course this still remains the harsh reality and many of the organisations and individuals speaking over the weekend referred to cuts in their budgets and the added difficulties made by governmental decisions.
But the weekend also showed the resilience, courage and resourcefulness of ordinary people under the most difficult of circumstances. People running businesses, apprenticeship and training schemes, community organisations refusing to accept that nothing can be done. Social Democrat politicians ready to listen, ready to challenge old beliefs and address new problems. Above all, young people, eager, willing, ready to work and to contribute in so many ways, but urgently in need of a new climate in which they can thrive.