The 2016 European Education, Training and Youth (ETY) Forum was hold in Brussels on 20-21 October. The event rallied all the relevant European stakeholders in a two-day conference dedicated to the presentation and delivery of the New Skills Agenda for Europe, recently approved by the European Commission. National and International actors, private and public institutions from the most diverse fields of action and expertise discussed the content of the document in panels and workshops, giving voice to the importance of skill development in the modern European society. An ISF delegation took part in the Forum, with the objective of bringing a school sport perspective to the discussion table.
The New Skills Agenda for Europe is a programmatic document describing ten actions to be undertaken with the aim of ensuring that European citizens enjoy a full access to training and skills development. By means of this actions, the European Union invites the Member States to “improve the quality and relevance of skill formation, make skills more visible and comparable, improve skill intelligence and information for better career choices.”
During the opening panel of the event, Andrea Bocskor, 1st Vice-Chair of the Committee on Culture and Education of the European Parliament, highlighted the fundamental role of volunteering in most of the actions described by the Agenda. In fact, Bocskor said, volunteering helps equipping young people with a key combination of soft skills that would be hardly developed in different contexts; these skills include entrepreneurship, problem solving and other social and civic competencies. In this respect, the ISF intervened in different workshops by highlighting the role of volunteering in sports and presenting to different stakeholders the “V2S – Volunteering with School Sport” project that has recently received funding from the Erasmus+ programme.
It is undeniable that volunteering, together with grassroots practice, are the two actions through which sport can contribute to skills development. Concerning grassroots sport, in different publications, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) highlighted the role of sport in developing, since a very young age, soft skills (such fair-play, self-esteem, honesty, trust) and core and job-specific skills (such as sensitivity to diversity, client/environment awareness, generating synergies, team-building, taking care of people). If we combine the ILO work with the content of the UNESCO Charter on Physical Education, Physical Activity and Sport, it becomes self-evident that schools and school sport assumes a fundamental role in the “education through sport” process that leads to the development of the skills mentioned above.
Finally, the role of volunteering in sports cannot be underestimated. Volunteers are often considered as the engine of sport events: this is because, it is a common praxis in the sport sector to empower volunteers and to trust them with a certain number of relevant responsibilities. Different studies (1, 2) showed how the empowerment of young volunteers in sport events provide them with skills that they will be able to re-use in the job market, especially in the sport sector: consequently, this is one of the main motivation factors for young people to apply for volunteering positions in sports. Furthermore, it can be affirmed that volunteering in sports can bring a two-folded benefit to youngsters: firstly, it can help them experiencing issues that they only learned in theory through formal education at school; this experience could definitely contribute in a positive way to their school performances and to the understanding of the role of the formal education they are receiving. Secondly, the skills acquired through volunteering in sport can help young people in their future choices concerning university studies and career.