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What sustainable jobs for young people in the mountains?

The Erasmus+ project “Youth4EmblematicMountains”, which follows the Interreg Med project EMbleMatiC, recently organised the « train the trainers » series of webinars to reflect on innovative education tools for mountain youth and investigate their aspirations in terms of education and employment. On 16th November 2021, Blandine Camus, Communication and Policy Officer at Euromontana, was invited to share some of the results of Euromontana’s mountain youth survey.

 

Education and employment are a weakness in the attractiveness of the mountains

Euromontana’s survey shows that young people want to stay – or settle – in mountain areas, they enjoy the quality of life and the proximity to nature, but they deplore the lack of academic and employment opportunities, explained Blandine Camus.

At European level, 35% of young people living in the mountains are dissatisfied with the offer of educational programmes in their region, may it be for university degrees, vocational trainings, or lifelong learning programmes. In some Mediterranean countries like Spain and Italy, the dissatisfaction rate rises to more than 50% of the youth surveyed. Likewise, when asked about the main reasons that could drive their departure, young people from mountain areas ranked the lack of education and employment opportunities in the top 6 of their reasons, together with the lack of dynamism and mobility offer.

 

Young people want more jobs and more sustainability

Another strong message from mountain youth in Euromontana’s survey is the call of young people for more sustainability in mountain areas, stressed Blandine Camus. Young people ask for more wilderness, more initiatives to tackle climate change and more incentives to encourage environmentally friendly behaviours in their communities.

Young people’s demands for sustainability are not only limited to environmental concerns but also to socio-economic ones. In the French and Italian Alps for example, young respondents are critical of the local economic development model, which is very tourism oriented. On the one hand, young people criticise the impact of winter tourism – and its maintenance at all costs – on the environment. On the other hand, they also complain that the local economy is not sufficiently diversified, as they find it difficult to get a job in sectors other than tourism.

Diversification is a major aspect of the attractiveness and dynamism of territories. The survey revealed that a great part of the young people interviewed (44%) said they would like to find a job in the sector in which they have specialised. Many youth have, for example, a degree in law, medicine, engineering, accounting etc.

Quite an important share of the respondents (22%) also said they would be interested in doing remote working in the mountains, which calls for the creation of more infrastructures like co-working spaces. Yet, remote working does not apply to all jobs and mountain areas cannot only rely on this practice to boost revitalisation and attract young workers. 18% of young respondents also want to set up their own business and another 12% would like to a so-called traditional mountain job, such as farmer, shepherd, ski instructor or mountain guide.

The diversity of ambitions and profiles of the young respondents should therefore be reflected in the diversity of job offers and sectors in the mountains. To encourage young people to stay or settle in there, mountain territories cannot rely only on traditional sectors such as agriculture or tourism, just as they cannot count only on the development of remote working. It will be necessary to create jobs in more sectors and to support youth entrepreneurship.

What conclusions can be drawn from these results in terms of sustainable employment in the mountains? The mountain economy should be diversified in some regions, to create jobs that support the economic and environmental sustainability of the mountains. Furthermore, the skills and qualifications of mountain youth should be harnessed and bridged with their demand for more environmental sustainability to create the “eco-friendly jobs” of tomorrow. Qualified and motivated profiles will be needed to develop the circular and bio economy in the mountains and to create innovative companies in energy, natural resource management, and food, among others. All the results from Euromontana’s mountain youth survey will be published in a report by January 2022. You can subscribe to our newsletter to stay informed on its release.

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18 November 2021

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