How to Reduce Youth Unemployment by Fighting Climate Change

A Study in Greece and Southern Spain


giving unemployed young people a chance

Picture by Gerd Altmann on Pixabay

Proposals  and Conclusions

In the winter 2018 a study was realized about opportunities and difficulties for young people in Southern Spain and in Greece to find work in sector, which are relevant for energy transition.

The study  – under the name “Zukunftschancen Energiewende und Klimaschutz” (ZEWKlima) – was financed by the European Climate Initiative (EUKI) from the Federal Ministry for Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU) in Germany.

The study itself was carried out under the responsibility of four organisations in Germany, Spain and Greece[1]

The particular regions for research were the metropolitan region of Athens and small rural towns in the Spanish province of Cádiz. They were chosen because of their high rates of youth unemployment.

Some of the key questions of the study are the following:

  • What are the current employment prospects of youngsters who have a relevant vocational training, in energy-relevant areas?
  • What opportunities exist in the near future in the regions investigated?
  • What are current deficits in training and education?
  • How is it possible to improve their chances?
  • Targeted activities to fight against the climate crisis and at the same time reducing youth unemployment?


In autumn 2018,  there started in Athens and in the province of Cádiz a formation project “Young energy experts working for climate friendly schools”, as practical consequence of the proposal II.2 (see below)[2].

Below you will find the central conclusions and proposals of the study. A more extensive version can be read on the websites of the organisations mentioned below in the footnote.

Hartwig Berger (Berlin), Nikos Chrysogelos (Athens), Francisco Sanchez del la Flor (Cádiz)



I. Conclusions of the study

  • The outlook for the strong development of the “renewable energy” and “energy efficiency” sectors is unclear for the near future but can be generally assessed as positive and promising. Negative factors in Greece are the difficult economic situation, the dependency of the energy industry on lignite production and lobby interests from the oil trade, especially from the shipping companies between the mainland and the numerous islands. Positive factors are the development of solar and wind energy in the years before the crisis and for solar energy in particular the virtual net metering provision for solar prosumers, decided 2017[3]. Furthermore, the development targets that have been entered into at the European level and the declarations of government for their national commitment.

    In Spain an originally very promising development of wind and solar energy was slowed down since 2011, but with more favourable perspectives since 2017 and in particular since the change of government in June 2018. In the decision of more ambitious goals for renewable energy until 2030 on European level in June 2018, the Spanish government took an active role. Furthermore, it announced new impulses for wind and solar parks and the introduction of favourable rules for solar prosumers. In the energy efficiency sector, a high national level of ambitions can be observed, which should result in an also ambitious strategy of efficiency and energy saving, if the aims already decided will be realized.

  • The energy transition and climate protection activities offer significant employment potential for quite different specialities. In the energy-related renovation of buildings we expect for Spain a six-digit and for Greece a nearly six-digit number of new jobs in the next years. In the different tasks of renewable energies, we estimate a five-digit number of new jobs in both countries. In any case, many qualified persons are needed for different professions, e.g. energy advisers, technicians, architects, energy economists and energy “all-rounders”. Accordingly, it is highly necessary to offer corresponding vocational training programmes in energy-related and climate-protective activities for young people which might be narrowly connected to practicalwork in enterprises.
  • Youth unemployment remains extremely high in both investigated regions, despite a slight decline in Spain. This is compounded by the fact that a growing number of young people fall into long-term unemployment or are obliged to accept a high level of job insecurity and irregular employment conditions to the detriment of regular employees.
  • Young people that have completed an energy-related training programme or a relevant university degree in Spain still have great difficulty of finding a job in their profession that they can live from. In Greece this situation of being “young, qualified but without work” is even more serious. The trend can therefore be observed that these generally well to very well-trained young people leave their country in order to find work abroad.
  • An important reason for this is the lack of practical application in the vocational training, which is limited to short-term internships.
  • Without exception, the close interlinking of “theoretical” vocational training with practical learning in companies is viewed as constructive and positive, similar to the dual education model in Germany.
  • In both countries the expansion and further development of vocational training like the dual model makes complete sense. This is already being institutionally drawn up in sections by the relevant education authorities. It is for these reasons that cooperation with German education institutions is useful and will also foster the exchange experiences around energy. A good example is the Greek-German cooperation project “GRAEDUCATION” in which training for environmental professions is further developed and adapted to the future challenges through co-creative collaboration between ministries, education institutions and companies.
  • However, when implementing dual training programmes, attention must be paid to avoiding pitfalls, such as the risk of misuse by companies wanting to save on paid work by using cheap trainees.
  • To shape a dual education model offering the possibility to fill the gap between highly qualified and low-to-non-skilled workers, several factors are crucial
    • provision of financial incentives for readily available training establishments,
    • close cooperation with existing educational institutions, anchored in the institutional framework.
  • In companies in the regions investigated, the technically and economically advantageous scope for energy-saving measures is high. However, company managers often lack the necessary understanding for energy saving analyses and measures. This also reduces the employment prospects of young people with relevant training.
  • The scope for energy efficiency in buildings in general is likewise very high. However, there is still a lack of binding rules for implementation and a system of checks for the requirements that must be observed with new buildings or renovations.
  • The group with by far the greatest difficulty in finding employment are the so-called NEETs, young people without vocational training and only elementary education or who quit school early.
  • Employment opportunities need to be found for them that require a basic preliminary qualification that is not too elaborate. A suitable option, in particular in rural areas, is a shorter-term training programme with later employment in climate adaptation and preventative action against climate change in agriculture, forests, landscape work in general and urban green areas.
  • There is a high level of credible willingness in the consulted municipalities to participate in targeted training projects in the area of energy and to promote them as far as possible.
  • The European Youth Guarantee can be a resource for financing targeted training projects. The Youth Guarantee should be used to fund training in professions where a high demand for specialised workers is to be expected in future, e.g. a climate-friendly energy transition.
  • The viability of solar energy for and by prosumers is very high in both countries due to the climatic conditions. The legal framework conditions are favourable in Greece, in Spain they are currently yet problematic. However, on the condition of complete self-sufficiency, solar energy in both countries it is viable and economic. A growing market of decentral solar energy offers a correspondent demand for experts in the necessary tasks, which have to be trained.
  • For low-income households, and especially in Greece, off-grid solar power generation can be achieved through the granting of micro-loans, energy-contracting or financial aid.


II. Proposals of the Study

1. The Future of Energy Efficiency in Buildings

We recommend creating a market for energy efficiency in buildings to boost the Greek and Andalusian economy, especially in formerly rural regions like the community association “La Janda”, investigated in this study. The construction industry, being involved in the task proposed, is of high importance in both countries. In Spain with a turnover of more than 10% of Spanish GDP and nearly one million jobs, with 88% in SMEs (small and median enterprises) and a growing importance in the sector of rehabilitation. 2007 the proportion of investments in rehabilitation of buildings in Spain did amount to 13%, in 2014 already to 31%. The energy rehabilitation would help to reduce the energy demand by 70-90%, with the buildings in Spain responsible for 41% of the final energy consumption and only 4.6% of them meeting the basic energy saving requirements[4].

Employment in energy rehabilitation can boost the economy of the formerly rural region with their high rate of unemployment, improving the quality of life of the inhabitants of the region, too:

It is labour intensive, creating more jobs than equivalent investments in new construction, which are

  • realized mainly by SMEs, being a sector, which promotes entrepreneurship and creating jobs in the local community as well,
  • requiring the participation of a diversity of professionals since the sector employs engineers or other graduates in the building sector, as well as energy efficiency experts on different levels,
  • requiring professionals of all ages, with the ability to train the entire range of the active population thus reducing youth unemployment,
  • reducing energy consumption, greenhouse gas emissions and energy poverty,
  • increasing comfort and thermal comfort in buildings and homes, thus reducing the risk of suffering certain diseases and the loss of effective work days,

To achieve this goal, several lines of action must be developed:

  • The town councils have to maintain their current efforts in improving energy efficiency by promoting their own measures, and by spreading – even for their own use – funding channels for the national energy plan.

In this sense, it is recommended to organize information days and dissemination to citizens of the existing national and regional energy plans and the possibilities for funding energy activities. At the technical level, dissemination days can be held in relation to the administration and the main agents involved in the rehabilitation sector. Likewise, a “catalogue of success stories/best-practices” can be generated that collects existing positive experiences and can serve as an example for future initiatives. Finally, prizes could be promoted at the municipal level but also regional or autonomic for actions of urban rehabilitation, regeneration and renewal.

At a normative level, municipalities could create Municipal Rehabilitation and Renewal Strategies and Plans for Urban Renewal through the development of a standard methodology based on the existing tools of the Vulnerability Observatory (Atlas of Vulnerability and Atlas of Residential Construction). Likewise, support should be given to the creation of local offices for the management of Urban Regeneration and Renewal Areas. Finally, in Spain recommended by the Ministry of Public Works in the document for energy rehabilitation, it could be established, in coordination with other existing initiatives, a permanent dialogue-platform between different municipalities to exchange their innovative experiences.

Entrepreneurs and companies linked to the construction sector can use already existing staffs of qualified technicians to create and to implement new business models linked to energy rehabilitation.

The knowledge and technological bases are already existing, satisfying possibilities and needs that are often not perceived by the owners, despite the difficulties they have in coping with the energy bill or maintaining comfort conditions.  As it has been verified, a possible way to make understandable the importance of the energetic rehabilitation can result from the energetic certificate and their diagnosis. The companies charged with energy certificates and energy efficiency in general would undoubtedly contribute to the local development creating jobs just in the building sector with a high rate of unemployment, e.g. in developing rehabilitation projects that could even include contracting models to facilitate financing by the owners.

The creation or constitution of rehabilitation cooperatives, or associations of owners with similar purposes, can have great advantages in various aspects. On the one hand they can act as focus in the purchase of construction products necessary for rehabilitation, thus obtaining lower prices. On the other hand, they can provide an extra guarantee for banks in order to grant loans for rehabilitation. Also, in its relations with the Administration, the dialogue with this type of cooperatives can facilitate access to public aid and speed up its processing and concession.

This constitutive process could arise from training activities followed by the neighbours themselves, such as empowerment courses. In this regard, it is worth mentioning the pilot course held in 2014 in Paterna de Rivera by 8 unemployed young people. The development of this type of courses in municipalities such as those that constitute the “La Janda” region could lead to the creation of jobs and improvement of the energy efficiency of buildings at the initiative of the owners.

The aforementioned points constitute in their entirety a social action plan for the region that we believe can improve overall the quality of life of the people who live and work there.


2. Young Experts for Climate-friendly Schools

Many young people in the regions investigated have completed energy-related vocational training but have not found employment in this field. At the same time, the energy efficiency of most schools and education centres in the municipalities is poor and urgently needs improving. Therefore …

it is proposed that comprehensive energy refurbishments in educational institutions – especially in schools – should be conceptually designed and planned as part of training programmes for young unemployed funded by the EU. The work should also include decentralised energy generation and use and soft forms of climate control. They should follow the “dual” model in the form of exemplary activity at selected schools.

Young people already trained in energy issues that have so far not found any employment or self-employed work will be engaged in this programme under supervision. They should try to continue with practical work:

  • Outworking comprehensive energy audits of school buildings including their surrounding environment.
  • Developing proposals how these buildings can be redesigned to make them more climate friendly by reducing energy consumption and how renewable energy can be put in use for the buildings itself.
  • Calculating the required costs and time in which they are re-financed by the results of energy saving the fotovoltaic put in use for the buildings.

The results of the studies will be presented to the municipalities as a basis for activities and initiatives.

A central component of the energy audit are potential climate-friendly heating techniques and above all the cooling of buildings, so-called “bioclimatic” concepts, which in contrast to commonly used techniques requires far less use of energy and are also significantly more cost-effective. The project would react to the intensive debate regarding the increasingly frequent overheating of buildings as a consequence of climate change, which is a subject of discussion at least among the Spanish public.


In the investigated regions the energy efficiency of buildings is in most cases seriously in need of improvement. Particularly in schools this has negative health consequences and also seriously impairs the willingness to learn during the frequent hot periods and also during cold periods. It is possible, in fact even probable, that state action is to be expected in this regard in the coming years, especially as both of the countries investigated in this project, Spain and Greece are obliged by Europe-wide regulations to increase the energy of efficiency of such activities and the EU investment programme initiated in 2015 provides for the granting of low-cost loans by the EIB for precisely such refurbishment programmes. As the outlined area of activities involves extensive planning and conceptual development, this corresponds with the requirements for training developed in the project.

The proposed project would respond to  energy related  debates in the regions investigated, since teachers, pupils and parents are suffering from bad temperatures in the school buildings – too cold in winter, too hot in late spring, summer and early autumn time . A consequence of these debates, e.g. in the regional parliament of Andalusia a draft bill to use energy-saving bioclimatic techniques and renewable energy for better climatic conditions in the school is currently being consulted[5].


3. “Round-up” Experts for Solar Energy

In terms of its climate conditions and building structures, the investigated region offers ideal conditions for decentralised power generation and usage, in particular of solar energy. At the same time, there seems to be a lack of competent “solar generalists” with practical experience and a comprehensive knowledge of all aspects of planning and installing power generation plants. Therefore …

a project should be developed for training youngsters as “solarteurs” – a profession name protected by the EU – e.g. in the region of Athens and in the Spanish province of Cádiz and an application for funding should be submitted. Young unemployed should participate in the training, ideally 50% of which should be young women. They should already have a trade or technical qualification and knowledge of IT. The training should be conducted following the “dual” model, i.e. including continual work in a company. It should therefore take slightly longer than the usually prescribed 6 months for a solarteur and incorporate a learning placement in Germany to gain experience with solar projects in practice. It should be investigated whether the training should also include the use of decentralised wind power.


In the investigated regions there is a shortage of people with comprehensive training in solar energy who plan, install, commission and organise the maintenance of photovoltaic plants, solar thermal plants and heat pumps and also advise on costs, viability, available funding, state regulations, how to set up an efficient and economic system, etc.

There is also a lack of state-operated training programmes in this field.

By European standards, both regions have exceptional potential for sun and wind, which makes decentralised usage appear particularly expedient and cost-effective. It is to be expected that in part yet existing state hindrances to decentralised power generation will be relaxed and liberalised soon.


4. “NEETS” Working for Climate Protection

A very high number of unemployed young people in the region do not have any vocational qualifications and have often not completed their school education[6]. At the present time, they cannot be integrated into training programmes and professions in the energy sector. However, they have great difficulty in finding employed or self-employed work (cf. chapter4.6). Therefore …

it is proposed that an exemplary training programme should be offered for this specific group of young people that contains climate protection and climate adjustment measures in the area of agriculture, forests and landscape work in general.

The “dual” structure programme should last about six months and upon obtaining employment in this field the participants should receive a subsequent period of advice and support.


Like other Mediterranean regions in Europe, the investigated regions will be affected very strongly in the coming years by the worsening consequences of global climate change (extreme weather events, droughts, flooding, erosion, desertification etc.). It is therefore especially important to adopt countermeasures in advance. To carry out the necessary landscape-related activities, there is a growing need for employees that acquire the necessary qualifications through shorter and less demanding training courses. Young unemployed people from this highly rural region very often have previous experience in agriculture and/or forestry. However, a training programme of this nature first requires funding programmes for climate change and climate adaptation as well as official obligations to be imposed on agriculture at the national and European level. #


5. How to improve the European Youth Guarantee

For more than 10 years now, an unacceptable number of young Europeans are unemployed. Many of them are hindered to practise the profession for which they have been trained and find themselves either locked out of paid work or employed only short-time under poor working conditions. Young people in southern Europe are most severely affected, but there are also major problems in other countries, in Croatia, Slovenia and France for example.

Five years ago, with the European Youth Guarantee the European Commission and the European Council committed all Member States to offer all young people aged between 15 and 24 (the upper age limit was later raised to 30) either a paid job or a training place within four months.

The Member States must develop programmes to put this arrangement into practice. To meet this requirement, they receive an amount of funding based on their general plans and on the level of youth unemployment in the country. An EU fund was set up for these activities, with a budget of EUR 6.4 billion to cover the period from 2014 to 2018; a further EUR 2 billion was made available last year and the scheme was extended until 2020. Funding under the European Youth Guarantee is provided on the expectation that Member States will draw up an effective implementation strategy and take practical measures designed to increase considerably the perspectives of young people securing a job which can provide them with a livelihood.

Today, it is clear that the financial incentives offered through the European Youth Guarantee are very far from enough to reduce unemployment rates to any significant extent. The countries hardest hit by youth unemployment have not introduced suitable policies and measures, nor have the Youth Guarantee’s monitoring tools proved effective as a means of reviewing the measures, rewarding success and penalising failure, as it would be appropriate. Thus, in the spring of 2017, more than four million young Europeans were unemployed, and youth unemployment rates were 43% in Greece, 41% in Spain, 35% in Italy and 24% in France1. These figures shame Europe and are blighting the future of an entire generation.

Particularly alarming is the proportion of young Europeans who are unemployed and at the same time without any professional formation or participation in training courses. In 2017, 14.5% of young people aged between 15 and 34 in the EU were in this situation. The figure for Italy was 25.5%; for Greece 24.4%; for Bulgaria 19.5%; for Croatia 18.9%; and for Spain 17.9%2.

The Youth Guarantee’s limited success is unsurprising, as it will not be able to create jobs, unless additional measures are taken to boost investment and innovation in sectors of the economy with relation to the formation of the youths. This would also require an improvement in the underlying economic situation compatible with the ecological requirements and with advances in science and technology. Under the present conditions, young people who are employed via the European Youth Guarantee or in similar employment programs with public aid, in their large majority will be unemployed anew when the activity financed by the Youth Guarantee has come to an end. At best they find afterwards only short-term employment contracts, frequently outside of their profession or they decide to emigrate to European regions offering better economic conditions. The companies involved in youth guarantee programs should therefore also be required to employ young people on a longer-term basis. It is clear from all of this that, without further incentives to expand and safeguard the development of high-quality products and services, the European Youth Guarantee alone cannot create lasting employment for young people in the countries where the problem is most severe. The Youth Guarantee’s financial aid is thus only a partial solution, which must be supplemented with further-reaching support initiatives to develop sustainable future-oriented products and services.

One reason why youth unemployment in Europe has a little bit decreased in recent years is that many young people have migrated to regions that are currently prosperous. In many cases they have only been able to find work outside their qualification. At the same time, youth mobility within Europe is augmenting disparities between regions, especially, if the country from which workers emigrate has had to pay for their education.

The situation regarding youth unemployment in Europe is likely to be a major topic for debate in the context of next year’s European elections. The low turnout among young people in the elections will once again be an issue. Given present findings, however, it should come as no surprise if young people who are long-term unemployed, or only precariously employed, feel they have little to gain from the EU and the notion of solidarity between Europeans. The EU has not yet been of any tangible help to them in significant areas of their lives. But what future can the Union expect if a large part of young Europeans in particular is permanently excluded from the labour market? Turning the problem around, it is precisely this generation that the EU needs to win over if it is to hold up the reduction of youth unemployment as a Community achievement. The run-up to the European elections offers a great political opportunity to set out convincing ideas and take further credible steps to implement them.


Against this background, we propose:

The EU offers young people who have yet to find work a vocational training in professional fields being necessary for a sustainable development in Europe. The education should include an empowerment to start activities, for example establishing a company or cooperative afterwards.  One obvious area here is climate protection and mitigating the effects of global warming. We propose to amplify the European Youth Guarantee by adding a further EU-funded programme: “Young people for a sustainable future”. The aim is to offer young Europeans – including young refugees with residence permits – a basic or supplementary training in professions that are important and necessary for climate protection. This training should be closely linked to practical activities and work experience, also in other European countries. It should be run along similar lines to the so-called ‘dual model’ of vocational training. The young people involved should also learn how to be proactive in the climate protection and energy transition sector, how to establish start-ups and get involved in projects in the solidarity-based economy. Developing a climate-friendly energy system and climate-friendly forms of employment is a field in which creativity and a sense of initiative are particularly in demand.

The training being offered must be combined with climate-protection activities in the Member States. By ratifying the Paris Agreement, all EU Member States have pledged under international law. “Young people for a sustainable future” should be an important step to fulfil this commitment. Young people who have hitherto been excluded could thus be offered a sustainable future, as part of a common effort and cooperative activity of and in the European Union.

We are restricting our proposal for an EU-wide offer to education and activities concerning climate-protection, in particular to the task of transforming our energy system from one that is destructive for the global climate to one that is climate-protective. In developing just this one sector, substantially more than a million young Europeans could be employed in fields which offer them a future.

For this to happen, however, Member States will have to meet their obligations under international law. And precisely Europe’s southern regions, which are hardest hit by youth unemployment, are best placed to employ young people in the switch to an energy transition which is based on solar power. In the coming years, they will also face more severe climate challenges than regions in the north and will have to do a great deal to mitigate desertification, erosion risks, severe droughts and damage to agriculture, – all the more a reason why they cannot afford to exclude young people from employment or to force them to migrate to other parts of Europe. It is in these countries own interest to keep their young people at home, they need their activities to safeguard a sustainable future at home. It is obvious, too, from the aforementioned climate-protection challenges that practically all sectors of the economy – mechanical engineering, electronics, ICT, agriculture, forestry, construction, timber construction, etc. – need well-trained young people with practical work experience and will need more of them in the future.


Relevant fields for training in the areas of climate protection/climate change mitigation are, for instance:

  • Energy service management, which, in addition to energy technology know-how, calls for knowledge of economics, law and climate protection and training in entrepreneurial and communication skills.
  • Renovating and constructing buildings to low-energy and zero-energy standards, timber und mud construction.
  • Energy audits in connection with climate-friendly heating and cooling technologies;
  • “Solar technicians” who plan, install and maintain decentralised renewable energy systems for heating, cooling and power generation, taking due account of both technical and economic factors and being able to give energy advisory.


Young people without any vocational qualifications, so-called NEETs, are particularly likely to face long-term unemployment and social marginalization. It is therefore essential to integrate them into the training component of an extended Youth Guarantee scheme. Training in the following fields could be offered, for example:

  • Low-threshold energy consulting for households and small businesses in municipalities, city districts and neighbourhoods.

Practical climate-protection and climate-adaptation activities in agriculture and forestry, landscape and green management, greening buildings and urban areas.



[1] Hochschule für Technik und Wirtschaft, Berlin, Universidad de Cádiz, Spain, The Greek NGO “Wind of Renewal”, Athens, Sekretariat für Zukunftsforschung, Berlin.  The study can be read under:;

[2] More information on the website of the project:

[3] Production and consumption of solar energy, typically by households or small enterprises. “net-metering” permits the prosumer to feed their excessive electricity into the grid and to receive it from the grid in case of shortcoming, both under the same conditions.

[4] Information by University of Cádiz.

[5]Legislative action in the Andalusian parliament 13.9. 2017: 10-17/PPL-000010, Proposición de Ley para la mejora de las condiciones térmicas y ambientales de loscentros educativos andaluces mediante técnicas bioclimáticas y uso de energías renovables.

[6] According to Diario de Cadiz, at the beginning of March 2017, 26% of all school pupils in the province left primary school before completing their education.

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