A Fantastic Final Conference in Brussels! (March 2018)

Many of you will hear me say this again and again, that despite increasing globalisation, we forget that it is in fact very easy to learn from countries around the world. Not only can we share results from different programmes, but its insanely interesting!


That’s why I was so ecstatic to attend the final EXCEPT Project conference at the capital of the EU, Brussels. Not only was it a great opportunity to collaborate with plugged in policy and employment experts from across the EU, but it was also great to be able to chat with young people from many different countries.


Young people bring a fantastic depth to events, particularly when the event’s focus is about young people. So it was great to see the EXCEPT team embrace the youth, and invite many along to the final conference.


The day started off with fellow Youth Ambassadors discussing how our governments, schools and employers approach to internships and apprenticeships. Many of the Youth Ambassadors spoke about internships, and their ability to be either very high quality, or the likelihood that they may offer very little value (and do not lead to employment afterwards). Some spoke about how larger businesses often offer a more training led schemes that allows the interns to learn something new and use these skills not just at the company they are placed in, but that some encourage interns to use their skills at a company that needs it. Others spoke about how the little salary, if any, harms the perception of internships, and that some employers may not see it as real experience.


We also had a good discussion about pensions. Almost all of us agreed on several aspects around pensions. We agreed that we don’t always trust our governments to look after our money. Mainly because of the aging population, the forever increasing retirement age and previous governmental track records.


We also believed that education on not just the pension system, but financial education as whole, needs much improvement. We all agreed that even if we did understand how it worked, we would be hesitant to start paying in to a pension, because our small salaries at the start of our working lives already leave little room to have disposable income. We would rather spend our money going out with friends or saving up for a car, for example.


This mirrors what a UK pension layer said when interviewed by the EXCEPT team:

“The main problem we see in pensions with young people is that they are 18, 19, 20s, they have other things they want to spend their money on and retirement seems an awfully long way away and you sort of think, I’d rather go out and have a few beers tonight.”


They were right!


Later in the day on the Future Perspectives panel discussion, I spoke about how very little people my age understand how pensions work, and the possibility of a campaign focused towards young people, inviting them to learn more about pensions and understand the ‘return on investment’ as it were, could be successful.


Although, to counter one’s own argument, I can’t help but question; do we really need to be thinking about pensions at such an early stage in life?


The EXCEPT project findings show that unemployment in young age increases the likelihood of deprivation at retirement. So should we be focusing on paying into pensions, or is this part of a much larger problem, such as long-term unemployment in young age brackets.

I’m looking forward to the next event in the UK’s Parliament on the 25th April 218 – and continuing to share the important data that the EXCEPT project has found. I hope to see lots of you there also.


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