Italy promotes vocational education to match youth with jobs

Wed Jun 29, 2011 8:02am EDT
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By Catherine Hornby

ROME (Reuters) - Recruiters at Italian defense and aerospace firm Finmeccanica have jobs to offer but can't find the right people, despite high youth unemployment in the euro zone's third-largest economy.

Jobs come up in Italy in production, logistics, aircraft fitting and maintenance, but personnel manager Francesco Mantovani says the education system often fails to supply enough competent candidates.

"It's difficult to find the technicians we need," he said. "It's above all an issue of quality."

A new system of university-level technical training is due to be launched this year to help bridge the gap that threatens Italy's productivity and competitiveness, and to try and overcome a cultural bias against vocational education.

A mismatch between education choices and the skills Italian businesses need has led employers' groups to complain they lack 110,000 qualified technicians every year, while more than a quarter of young people are out of work.

He said that they have fewer problems in other countries where they operate such as Britain and France.

But convincing young people of the appeal and prospects of a technical education may be a long struggle due to the prestige attached to intellectual work and common views that humanities courses are broader, easier and more interesting.

"I prefer a more general education, technical courses are too specialized," said Jacopo Cenciotti, a 25-year old student of communication. "I like talking to people whereas I think technical jobs are more individual manual work."   Continued...