A crucial challenge of contemporary European societies lies in developing lifelong learning (LLL) policies that support these populations to live enriching experiences, broaden their knowledge and acquire up-to-date skills. This book deals with LLL policies for young adults, in particular those in vulnerable situations and near social exclusion. It elaborates on the findings of a European research project – Policies Supporting Young People in their Life Course: A Comparative Perspective of Lifelong Learning and Inclusion in Education and Work in Europe (YOUNG_ADULLLT) – that investigated the potential of LLL policies in nine member states of the European Union (EU). YOUNG_ADULLLT enquired into the specific forms of embedding of these policies in the regional economy, the labour market, the education/training systems and the individual life projects of young adults. The research was carried out in Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Finland, Germany, Italy, Portugal, Spain and Scotland between 2016 and 2019.
The editors and authors gratefully acknowledge the financial support of the Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Programme (Grant Agreement No 693167). Through this programme, the European Commission aims at implementing the flagship initiatives ‘Innovation Union’ and ‘Europe 2020’ that seek to secure the global competitiveness of Europe by driving smart, sustainable and inclusive growth and jobs. Reflecting the policy priorities of the Europe 2020 strategy to address major societal challenges, a call for proposals in 2014 ‘YOUNG-3-2015: Lifelong Learning for Young Adults: Better Policies for Growth and Inclusion in Europe’1 was pitched to address the challenge of ‘overcoming the economic and social crisis and meeting the Europe 2020 targets on employment, poverty reduction, education, sustainability, innovation’.
In responding to the call, the YOUNG_ADULLLT research consortium did not assume that economic and social objectives are harmonious and co-extensive, but argued instead that although these objectives may be complementary, they are not linearly or causally related, and due to distinct orientations, differing objectives and temporal horizons, serious conflicts and ambiguities may arise from policies eliding both aims. The project’s aims took these observations into consideration and set out to scrutinise the various LLL policies for young adults and analyse their potentially competing (and possibly ambivalent) orientations and objectives. One main objective has (p.xiv) been to gain insights into their implications as well as intended and unintended effects on young adult life courses. YOUNG_ADULLLT aimed at critically analysing current developments of LLL policies in Europe with a view to preventing ill-fitting policies from further exacerbating existing imbalances and disparities as well as identifying sustainable practices and patterns of coordinated policy-making at regional and local levels across the EU.
The editors and authors also gratefully acknowledge the work of the 15 partners of the consortium – and invite readers to visit the project website for more information on the research project and partners: http://www.young-adulllt.eu/. We particularly thank the dedicated colleagues who contributed the chapters that make up this book and are very grateful for the many occasions for discussion and debate, mutual learning and inspiring collaboration. We also would like to say thanks to Jozef Zelinka and Maurice Adiek for their diligent work on the manuscript of this book.
Special thanks go to a group of experts who have accompanied the research project by joining the National and European Advisory Boards. Without mentioning the plentiful names, we are thankful for their comments and feedback at all stages of the research, which have genuinely improved the whole of our endeavour. Their feedback on our activities and reports has been indispensable for achieving the goals of the project and this edited volume.
We also wish to express our gratitude to the experts in charge of lifelong policies in the abovementioned nine countries who kindly contributed to our study by taking part in interviews detailing their perspectives and insights into their work and the challenges they face. Some of them have also made very helpful recommendations for the fieldwork, analysis and dissemination of this study. The consortium is particularly grateful to those who joined a number of policy roundtables that the project convened in two regions of each country as well as in Brussels.
Special appreciation goes to the numerous young people we encountered in this project, through research and observation, who shared with us their learning biographies, their concerns and hopes in in-depth interviews. Well beyond simply providing data and information about their experience with LLL policies, they have shared with us invaluable insights into the dynamics of their life courses, including their relationships and their feelings and thoughts about how they perceive societal expectations, and what needs and potentials they identify for their individual life plans. They showed us that they also have much to say and made an array of suggestions. We (p.xv) invite all those involved or related to LLL policies to listen to their voices and take on their perspectives.
(1) Horizon 2020 Framework Programme for Research and Innovation (2014–2020), Societal Challenge 6 – ‘Europe in a Changing World: Inclusive, Innovative and Reflective Societies’. The Call YOUNG-3-2015 is available from: https://ec.europa.eu/programmes/horizon2020/en/h2020-section/europe-changing-world-inclusive-innovative-and-reflective-societies (p.xvi)