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How Italian communities should get ready for valuable work placements in social businesses for young people

Articulating what social entrepreneurship represents and the benefits it can deliver for communities is seen as a critical first stage in attracting and preparing young people as work experience participants in this exciting sector. 

The SIVSEN research context

The SIVSEN Comparative Analysis aims to explore the transition from education (e.g., vocational college, universities) into a social enterprise workplace, including international programmes in the UK, Sweden, Italy, and Romania. During the spring and summer of 2021, the SIVSEN partners conducted research on the social enterprise sector and their interaction with the education system and work placement programmes run for learners by VET and higher education institutions, with a particular focus on work placement programmes in social enterprises.

In order to better understand the context within each partner country, as project partnership, we researched available data on the education system in each country and mapped and identified the complex system of the social economy macro sector. Then, we prepared four reports on our national contexts and a comparative analysis for the UK, Sweden, Italy and Romania. Furthermore, we wanted to explore more deeply the relationship between the social enterprise sector and vocational training and higher education organisations. Thus, we organised focus groups and online surveys with social entrepreneurs and universities, colleges, public or private vocational training providers, etc. in each partner country. 

Key learnings from Italy

Current challenges of providing work placements in social enterprises

In Italy there is no standard framework/programme (governed by laws/regulations) or specific to the social sector for work experience, but there are many social and non-profit organisations that provide internship periods for young people attending school within their structures. The Italian social sector is complex, well-structured, and works closely with the public administration, so although there is no specific national programme, as can be seen from the table, there are many agencies/ONGs that train young people in the workplace and the percentage shows that many Italian young people decide to work in this sector.

These social enterprises/ongs have developed their own guidelines/timetables to allow for non-formal apprenticeships.

It is likely that these have grown organically to meet the challenges of their organisation/sector, while aiming to ensure that the benefits to young people, themselves and any associated educators are maintained through adherence to safeguarding policies and procedures.

Work placements expectations and benefits for young people

The focus group was an interesting moment of discussion between the world of social enterprises and the bodies involved in training and education.

The discussion was heated, in fact, the focus group lasted for more than 75 minutes, as you can see from the recording.

This is very significant, as it suggests that there is a real need to talk about what happens within social enterprises and the need to inform young people about the possibility of working in socially responsible enterprises.

Therefore, what emerged is that there is a lack of culture in the social economy, as it is often ghettoised within the traditional spheres of welfare and the third sector.

There is a need to educate young people that businesses operating in the social economy no longer focus only on classic sectors such as education, health and social inclusion, but have begun to contaminate other sectors, such as social agriculture, the cultural sector with a social impact, urban regeneration and other sectors that the recent reform of the sector in Italy has regulated. Often, there is also a lack of targeted training to make people understand that when we talk about the social economy, we are not just talking about volunteering, but about real social enterprises, which also contribute to society in economic terms.

There is a need for a programme that sets out the key competences for working in the social sector, particularly in relation to entrepreneurial skills and those concerning economic sustainability. In addition, what has been highlighted is that there is also a lack of collaboration between the world of work and training providers.

Read the full SIVSEN Comparative Analysis  here.

Learn more about the Italian national context of the work placements in the social economy sector here.