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Interview Ian Goldring about the URBACT project network JobTown

Goldring: ‘Youth unemployment and underemployment is not just a problem for those young people directly affected; by extension it is a societal and economic problem for everyone. It is a structural problem pre-dating the crisis – obviously, made much worse by the crisis – and it will not just end when the current economic crisis is over’. Ian Goldring is Director of the Brussels-based ProjectWorks non-profit association. Currently he is the Lead Expert for the URBACT JobTown network, which focuses on the creation of youth employment and opportunity, through a mix of long-term approaches and short-term actions.

What does your organisation ProjectWorks do?

Goldring: ‘We provide capacity building, on local development and inclusion issues, to administrations – mostly of the local level – and third sector (European platforms, non-profits, associations and so on) bodies, help them participate in European programmes and funding, and we conduct research. We support mutual learning in transnational exchange. We support local networks and integrated actions for local development and social inclusion.  We bring people together by conducting workshops and seminars, designing projects and so on. 


About the JobTown URBACT network

The JobTown URBACT network seeks to ensure that today’s youth become effective and successful members of tomorrow’s workforce, thereby making our economies more dynamic, innovative and competitive, and ensuring the sustainability of our way of life. Goldring: ‘as an URBACT Lead Expert my role is to support local administrations with identifying and implementing actions they can take and to connect transnationally all the different localities and stakeholders involved. 


Dissemination is also a big part of the work of an URBACT network; for example, the Lead Partner of JobTown is Cesena, from the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy. In support of our work, the region’s representation in Brussels hosted a seminar in October 2012, “Facing Youth Unemployment -What can the EU and the local-regional level do together?”, with elected representatives from municipalities participating in JobTown and Commission officials (watch these videos on the Keynote speech and the Commission policy panel discussion


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JobTown is broken down into 5 sub-themes


  1. Developing effective models of cooperation. Between different administrative levels, young people themselves, educators and trainers, other social actors and the private sector. Goldring:’ A central question here is how to get all these groups together? What you often see in these processes is that only the usual suspects sit around the table, but the private sector is missing.’

  2. Making education, and vocational education and training, responsive to the needs of the local labour market. All levels of education – primary, university, vocational – need to be involved if we are going to address the issue structurally. Goldring:’ it is all about a better match between the labour market and education. This is not just about feeding some economic-productive machine; it is about young people being able to look forward to having opportunities in their autonomous adult life.’

  3. Labour market analysis. This sub-theme is about better detection of current labour market needs and forecasting of future ones. This and the previous theme are interlinked.

  4. Support for business creation and self-employment. Goldring: ‘it is overly hopeful to think that just getting more people to be self-employed will solve the current problem of unemployment, but it is a good thing to stimulate the skills and competences involved with self-employment and entrepreneurship (creativity, individual initiative, problem solving, etc.) – from primary school right up. For example, there is a youth centre in South London I came in contact with, where the teens who go there are tasked with running the building’s sweet shop. They have to arrange the stock, handle the bills, the cash register, and so on – they like it, they learn a lot doing it and it works well.’

    Goldring: ‘ However, the elephant in the room is the business environment itself; people can always improve their skills and learn by doing.  Administrative burdens and other barriers and disincentives – and in some parts of Europe, outright economic collapse – have to be addressed. I feel very strongly that we cannot just ignore such issues – because they are hard to do anything about – and then tell young people they just have to learn to show some initiative.’

  5. Social economy and resource management. Goldring: ‘ this is Social Innovation; it’s doing more with less – a good skill to develop in these frugal times. For example, one of our partners, Aveiro in Portugal, is looking at how to provide childcare solutions for parents working, while their children are on lengthy summer breaks, whereby the children would learn and use English while being kept suitably occupied and supervised – 2 birds with one stone.’


What kind of activities has JobTown planned in the short-term?

Goldring: ‘ Well, aside from a kick off meeting in March in Cesena, we’re having our first transnational workshop – on effective models of cooperation – in Avilés, Spain.
Additionally, the Emilia-Romagna Regional representation and the JobTown crew were pleased with how our first joint seminar in Brussels went, so jointly we will be organising a cycle of similar seminars in Brussels, broadly in line with the main themes JobTown is concerned with – we look forward to the participation of EMI and EUKN in these upcoming events!’

If you would like to know more about the JobTown network please visit the URBACT or ProjectWorks website.