Fighting youth unemployment is a key issue for Italy and a number of people there are looking with interest at the situation in Germany, where youth unemployment is very low compared to the rest of Europe. It is hoped that the dual system of vocational training in particular will serve as a model for Italy of how to further develop its own vocational education system. The labour and education ministries of both countries have now reached specific agreements on promoting youth employment. These agreements are set out in a Memorandum of Understanding signed by German Federal Minister of Labour and Social Affairs Dr. Ursula von der Leyen, Italian Minister of Labour, Social Policies and Equal Opportunities Elsa Fornero, Italian Minister of Education, University and Research Francesco Profumo, and a high-ranking representative of the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research during the conference "Working together to foster youth employment" in Naples on 12 November 2012.
Cooperation between the two countries focuses on the following areas:
- Labour market policy: Promotion of youth employment and the occupational mobility of young people, and sharing of good practices in labour market policy.
- Vocational education: Discussion of experiences and ideas among apprentices and vocational school students, teaching staff and representatives of companies, comparison of the two countries' education systems and structures, and sharing of good practice in vocational education.
A joint work programme has been drawn up detailing specific measures for implementing the agreements. The next steps will include joint implementation of the special programme for promoting the occupational mobility of young people, which is due to be launched on 1 January 2013, a joint workshop on evaluating labour market reforms, and in-depth discussion of good practice in dual training. In addition, both ministries intend to increase take-up of the tried-and-tested mobility and exchange programmes Integration through Exchange (IdA) and Leonardo da Vinci. German and Italian EURES partners will also provide information about job and apprenticeship vacancies in Germany as part of a tour of several Italian towns and cities in 2013. The measures for vocational education cooperation primarily involve intensive expert discussion of the principles of the dual system of vocational training and initiation of pilot projects based on good practice.
Furthermore, the Association of German Chambers of Industry and Commerce (DIHK) has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with its Italian counterpart to encourage dialogue between the two nations regarding their vocational education systems.
The labour ministers of the two countries had already agreed to meet for the "Working together to foster youth employment" conference during the summit talks between the German and Italian governments in Rome on 4 July 2012. The conference saw representatives of the ministries, of German federal states and Italian regions, and of chambers of commerce, companies and education providers come together with young people from Germany and Italy to discuss experiences, challenges and solutions.
German Federal Minister of Labour and Social Affairs Dr. Ursula von der Leyen highlighted three particular benefits of dual training: its practical approach, the job-specific qualifications it leads to and the career prospects it offers. She told the young people at the conference: "Be inquisitive, develop a thirst for knowledge, learn foreign languages. The whole of Europe is open to you."