1) Why did your city decide to apply under Urban Innovative Actions?
Through experience with e.g. URBACT, HORIZON2020, LIFE, Interreg and Integrated Territorial Investments, Rotterdam has first-hand experience of the value that EU support can bring to tackling urban challenges on e.g. mobility, energy and education. Especially the Jobs and Skills agenda is important in this regard. Rapid transformation of many sectors of the Rotterdam economy has already started to change the skills that are required from the workforce. The associated unprecedented new economic opportunities and challenges will drastically change labour market needs. Consequently, qualification and skill gaps are expected to grow significantly. Together with businesses and schools we developed ideas on how to address the urgent urban challenge of better aligning young people’s educational choices with future labour market needs, but we were not yet able to mobilise sufficient momentum and funding to implement these ideas on a large enough scale to make impact. The possibility of using UIA resources to test our ideas was quickly identified as being very interesting.
2) What do you consider to be the most innovative element of your project?
In our view, the most innovative element of the project is the Career Start Guarantee. Employers will offer 600 pupils per year a Career Start guarantee (420 for technology sectors and 180 for healthcare) at the moment they enter secondary vocational education and need to make the most crucial subject and career choices. Provided that the pupil chooses the training that the labour market needs, an employer will commit in advance to that individual with a guaranteed career start after graduation.
3) What are the main changes that you expect to achieve in your municipality with this project?
The main changes we expect to achieve are the establishment of a closer link between employers and schools. Also we expect that career guidance activities and the importance of development of the required skills and competences for a rapidly changing workplace will become much more prominent in schools, starting at an early age.
4) After a year of implementation, can you tell us where you are with the project and what are the main challenges you expect to be confronted to?
Much of the work has been in preparation of the implementation. Defining the precise scope of the interventions, the development of a monitoring and impact framework for the data collection and the procurement of external expertise were our first priorities. Main challenges that we expect in the near future vary from how to ensure the continued cooperation of schools to the important question of how can we reach the young people in Rotterdam South. We have prepared a communication campaign that will be launched at the start of the second year of BRIDGE. This campaign is going to be very important to the success of BRIDGE.