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Youth Essay Competition – Catching up with Marija

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The SME Week Youth Essay Competition is an opportunity to make your voice heard and to take your ideas to a key SME stakeholders and policy makers on a European platform.

Today on Promoting Enterprise we are excited to be catching up with last year’s winner Marija Elena Borg! Marija impressed both the competition jury and then the SME Assembly 2018 delegates with her essay on the links between innovation and the holistic growth of organisations. So what has she been up to since winning the competition and what did she take away from the experience? Keep reading to find out!

What have you been doing since winning the Youth Essay Competition?

As the Malta Business Bureau’s Senior EU Funding Executive, I am committed to continue developing my skills on both project writing and management. Therefore, over the last months, I have immersed myself in the submission of new proposals and the implementation of ongoing projects. A particular highlight has been my two-week experience in Brussels, working alongside an experienced entrepreneur on the project development front.

What was the best part about entering the Youth Essay Competition?

Definitely the opportunity to challenge myself! The Youth Essay Competition gave me a clear incentive to properly brainstorm on the topic of innovation and voice my thoughts and reflections in the form of an essay. Being one of the three finalists also meant participating in the SME Assembly in Graz, pitching my ideas directly to European entrepreneurs and policy-makers.

What did you learn from the Youth Essay competition experience?

To put it simply, this experience has taught me that nothing is really impossible as long as you value and believe in your strengths and capabilities. Time and experience play a crucial role in the process of building self-belief – one simply needs to be patient, treat failures as lessons learnt and keep on exposing oneself to new challenges and opportunities.

Don’t forget that you can read Marija’s essay or look at her final presentation for inspiration, and read her winner’s interview here. Still want more advice from Marija? Curious about how she would approach this year’s question? Come back to the News Portal next week to find out!

For more information on the SME Week Youth Essay Competition 2019, read the launch post to find out what we are looking for. Still have questions? Please contact smeweek@loweurope.eu and follow @EEPA_EU on Twitter and @PromotingEnterprise on Facebook for the latest information.

What skills do youth need for the future? – Youth empowerment specialist, Daisy da Veiga

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With the recent launch of the European SME Week Youth Essay Competition 2017, Promoting Enterprise interviewed youth empowerment specialist and guest contributor Daisy da Veiga to ask about her opinion on what skills she believes youth need to develop for the future. She also shared with us her latest work with Youth not in employment, education or training (NEET), including a vlog from her latest trip to an exchange program in Lisbon  about NEET youth work across Europe.

What skills do you believe that youth need for the future?

There are a variety of skills that youth must develop, however I think that soft skills come first and foremost. Firstly, you need to be able to love yourself and have self-confidence, from there you can build on other useful skills. Through self-confidence you will develop another critical skill for success, persistence, it is important to not give up, even when it gets difficult. Working on yourself is important, but it is also necessary to develop your social skills. The ability to connect with people will not only allow for the forging of relationships, but also the opportunity to learn and exchange with others, which is how we grow.

Soft skills should also be complemented with ‘hard skills’ such as creativity and audacity. I believe that youth are very creative, but they don’t always know how to express that creativity. This links to another important skill which may sometimes be overlooked: the ability to ask for help. Learn from and exchange with others, and don’t be afraid to be audacious. Dare to do, speak and change, dare to leave your comfort zone! Whilst it is important to ask for help, I also want youth to remember their ability to listen to their inner voice and go with their gut feeling. We can be easily affected and distracted by all the things that go on around us and the people in our network, but sometimes you need to distance yourself from that and think and act with a clear mind.

Based on your experiences with youth, both within and outside of education systems, do you think that the current education systems need to change? Should their focus be realigned to help develop the skills you have mentioned?

I recently attended a conference on how to re-organise education in Rotterdam where the participants were talking about the intention of education and the systems we have built to deliver it. Personally, I believe that education should prioritise ‘soft skills’ more than it does at present, and then complement that with the current ‘hard skills’ it teaches i.e. maths, science, foreign languages etc.

The intention of education is to help youth find their way in society, and develop them firstly as individuals and secondly as professionals. However, it seems that we have forgotten the intention and are now stuck in a system. The system which was created to help realise the intention, has now become the intention, in short we have forgotten what the system was for.

On the subject of youth, what other work have you been involved in recently with European youth?

One of the European ventures I am currently involved in, is the international exchange of the project Boulevard of Dreams, by the foundation Manage Your Talent. The foundation is based in Rotterdam and I am one of the youth empowerment trainers. This European project has participants from across five countries including, The NetherlandsUnited KingdomSwedenRomania and Portugal. The aim of the project is to exchange ideas, methods and information about working with and for NEET youth, and to offer them the best tailored training possible.

Boulevard of Dreams has three phases in its youth empowerment initiative. The first is to empower the participating youth and give them the ability to find out who they are, identify their talents, discover their dreams and ultimately give them some direction. Once the participants have a clear idea of what they want, they can choose to progress to the second phase where they are paired with a peer educator or ‘buddy’ who is a professional in the field they aspire to join and between the ages of 25-35. Depending on the buddy and the dream in question, this stage involves different activities, but the minimum is that the buddy offers information and guidance from their experience. In the final stage, the participants are offered the opportunity to present their ideas in front of a jury and win financial support for their idea or for education if that is what they wish to pursue.

As part of this project I recently attended a conference in Lisbon on how to work with NEET youth, which included the sharing of experiences from fellow trainers across Europe. As I enjoy vlogging I have included my journey in Lisbon for you right here so that you can experience my journey with me. I hope you enjoy it!

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