The “ImprendiTO” initiative strived to counter the dire youth unemployment rates in Turin by addressing one of their systemic root causes: the lack of an entrepreneurial mindset among the young generation. The project provided young people with training and mentoring to realistically plan their professional careers and to fulfil their human potential in Turin instead of looking for jobs away from home or giving up altogether.
In 2013 the unemployment in the Eurozone exceeded 12%, marking a record since Eurostat had started to collect the relevant data in 1995. 6 million Europeans found themselves jobless, including 635.000 in Italy. Negative trends in job markets drained rural areas and middle-size cities of job-seekers who migrated to nearby metropolises or abroad in search of income. Turin was on the losing side of these flows, to the extent of getting hailed by the press as “il Sud del Nord”, referencing the historical migrations of aspiring workers from southern to northern Italy. Now workers of all ages were moving to Milan or farther, and nearly 40% of Turin’s inhabitants aged 15-24 ended up NEET (Not in Education, Employment or Training).
The project’s format was a fruit of a five-months-long process of research, consultations and brainstorming. Shapers identified several driving forces of youth unemployment and young people’s distrust in formal education. Many of the surface problems could be traced back to conservative cultural perceptions of “work”, “jobs” and “professional success”, as students and educators reported that young people with middle-class backgrounds often felt pressured by their families to “study law” or “work in a big company” despite the extremely limited number of available positions in these “traditional” sectors in the contemporary local job market. This unrealistic vision and prejudices against “non traditional” occupations translated into the low quality (or complete lack) of education for entrepreneurship in scholastic curricula. While most European states were lacking structured strategies to stimulate entrepreneurship, Italy scored especially low in the area of “quality of entrepreneurship education and training at school” and was lagging behind more innovative nations regarding “the availability of extra-curricular opportunities” for high schoolers.
The Hub decided to develop an interactive lesson and deliver it in groups of three Shapers to several classes of students at a time, with the aim of explaining the challenges and opportunities of the contemporary job market and entrepreneurship in an engaging way that would stimulate students’ enthusiasm, creativity and imagination. The sessions combined videos, live testimonials, talks, and an activity varying between a workshop (a challenge performed in teams) or a simple role-playing game simulating the experience of creating and running enterprises - in which all players could win an exciting (albeit symbolic) prize.
Shapers created brochures, information kits and other materials on the following topics:
- Inspiring success stories of local entrepreneurs
- Possible educational and professional opportunities to pursue after high school
- Basic concepts of start-up and entrepreneurship
- Introduction to the psychology of work
- Boosting and developing passions and ambitions
- Leaving the comfort zone
- Future-oriented mindset
- Possible difficulties in future careers
The exact contents of each session varied depending on the moderating Shapers. Moderators of the first sessions prepared reports about the experience for further discussions and evaluation by the Hub, leading to removal, addition or modification of some sections and activities. The Hub maintained relationships with a number of schools, returning with several versions of the lesson or the same lesson presented to different groups of students, and later collaborated with some of them on other projects.