By Stefanos Evripidou
EU GOVERNMENTS must continue to invest in education and training even during times of fiscal austerity, said EU Education Commisioner Androulla Vassiliou yesterday during the launch of ‘Erasmus+’, the EU’s new funding programme for education training, youth and sport, in Nicosia.
“We have a duty to help the youth make the transition from one phase of education to the next and then on to employment,” she said.
This was the big challenge for all in the EU, said Vassiliou, adding Erasmus+ responded to that call.
The programme aims to give four million Europeans the chance to study, train, gain work experience or volunteer abroad over the next seven years and follows on from the popular Erasmus initiative, a student exchange programme operating since 1987.
Erasmus+ has an updated budget of €14.7 billion, a 40 per cent increase from previous years.
According to the European Commission, around 15,000 Cypriots- marking a 50 per cent increase from the previous period- are expected to benefit from Erasmus+ over the next seven years.
Between 2007 and 2013, around 10,000 Cypriot students, young people and education, training and youth staff took part in the EU’s Lifelong Learning and Youth in Action programmes.
Cyprus will receive a total of €8.6 million in 2014 from Erasmus+, a 14 per cent increase compared with the funding it received in 2013. It is envisaged that, as with other participating countries, the annual allocation will increase each year up to 2020. Cyprus can also benefit further from grants for transnational sports projects and the Jean Monnet action for European integration studies in higher education.
The European Commission and the Cyprus Youth Board will be responsible for implementing Erasmus+ in Cyprus.
Vassiliou urged Cypriots to take full advantage of the grants available under the new programme, and gain international experience that will boost their skills, personal development and employability.
The Commission hopes that through the programme, improved cooperation between education and employers will contribute to addressing the “skills mismatch” which is a major cause of high youth unemployment faced by many EU members, including Cyprus.
Erasmus+ is being launched at a time when nearly six million young people are unemployed in the EU, with levels above 50 per cent or more in Greece, Spain and Croatia and nearly 40 per cent in Cyprus.
At the same time, there are over two million job vacancies, and a third of employers report difficulties in recruiting staff with the skills they need.
Erasmus+ will help to address this skills gap by providing opportunities for people to study, train or gain experience abroad, said the Commission.
“Giving students and apprentices the opportunity to study or train abroad also makes it more likely they will want, or be able, to work abroad in future, thus increasing their long-term job prospects,” said the Commission press release.