Solutions for European youth unemployment through entrepreneurship and cooperatives

Lappeenranta University of Technology (LUT) is joining an effort to find solutions for European youth unemployment through entrepreneurship and cooperatives. Funded by the EU, the newly established project will assess training programmes based on the cooperative approach with regard to their impact on youth employment.

LUT will develop an evaluation method for the assessment of various courses and training programmes that support cooperative activities. Training programmes and courses in cooperative activities are common in the project's target countries of Portugal, Spain and Italy, with target groups ranging from school children to university students.

"Cooperative activities are much more common in southern Europe than in Finland. For example, they include a cooperative university, student cooperatives and cooperative summer camps. These programmes help young people develop their teamwork skills, community orientation and the competencies needed in working life," says Junior Researcher Minna Hämäläinen.

While there is a wide variety of cooperative activities in the target countries, the programmes have not been systematically evaluated. This means there is a lack of reliable information on the extent to which cooperative activities in the target countries actually prevent youth unemployment. LUT's role in the project is to identify the practices among the various programmes in the target countries that are the most effective in supporting youth employment. They will be used to design a pilot training programme for implementation in the target countries. The project's results will be best practices for functional cooperative education and training to promote youth employment.  

The ultimate purpose of the project is the prevention of youth unemployment in southern Europe. The target countries have very high rates of youth unemployment, approaching half of their young populations in some of them. The target countries also have long traditions of using cooperative approaches to prevent unemployment. The cooperative activities are aimed at providing young people with summer jobs to accumulate work experience and earn money while learning skills related to working life and entrepreneurship. 

"Cooperatives are a good business model for young people because of the low capital requirements and limited liability. They are based on creating a community that shares financial, social and cultural goals and divides the results of its efforts equally," Hämäläinen explains.

Cooperative activities play a significant role in Europe. One in five Europeans are members of cooperatives and the total number of cooperatives in Europe exceeds 250,000. They have 123 million members and they employ five million people in various sectors across the continent.

The Entrepreneurial Cooperative Experience (ECOOPE) project is funded by the EU and includes five countries: Finland, Spain, Italy, Portugal and the United Kingdom.

Further information:

Minna Hämäläinen, Junior Researcher, minna.hamalainen@lut.fi, +358 50 564 2632