Connecting new opportunities
Education and digital knowledge as tools for social integration
Connectivity refers to the ability to establish connections between different elements. For our current society it is an essential factor for smart, efficient and sustainable development, since it gives us immediate access to information and offers us very advantageous opportunities for our lives, which we would currently be unable to do without. For the Cellnex Foundation, connectivity also means building connections between the challenges around us and different solutions to these; bringing different groups together; bridging the digital, social and territorial divide; transforming realities to promote changes in people’s lives and in the environment.
With this vision, one of its flagship programmes linked to corporate volunteering was born in 2019. This is the Youth Challenge, which is proud of its success and has just celebrated the closing of its third edition related to the academic year 2022-2023. The educational initiative, performed hand in hand with United Way and various educational entities, seeks to accompany and train young people from difficult social backgrounds and connect them with the real work environment and facilitate their future employability.
Equal access to quality training and education is one of the great challenges around us. Indeed, it constitutes one of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the 2030 Agenda, which includes the goal of increasing the number of young people with the professional skills necessary to access decent employment and entrepreneurship. This means focusing our attention on something as pressing and topical as school drop-out rates which, although they have decreased in recent years, continue to represent 9.7% of young people aged 18 to 24 in Europe and 13.3% in Spain.
The causes of early drop-outs from non-compulsory education can be very varied and range from fragile family socioeconomic situations, gaps between the various educational centres, to learning difficulties and other physical or mental health problems that affect performance.
The lack of clear objectives, information, contact with reality and job orientation are equally decisive reasons for these young people to decide or not to continue studying. “Why bother? many of them wonder. So, resolving this doubt and channelling it towards clear aims and plans for the future is one of the reasons the Youth Challenge project exists.
This is why the initiative continues to grow every year, accumulating experience, positive impact, extending its reach to other countries in which Cellnex is present and adapting its range of activities.
“We have progressed from working on the project in Spain to incorporating five more countries: Italy, Portugal, United Kingdom, France, and Netherlands” explains Carmen Espinosa, from the Cellnex Foundation. “Throughout the different editions, the more than two hundred Cellnex volunteers have shared experiences with over a thousand students and a multitude of institutes and educational centres.”
“For us it is a unique experience, with a 100% positive emotional impact that every professional should try. This programme fosters a change in our values and gives us the chance to share the best version of ourselves”, says Thaïs Salvatella, Cellnex volunteer and Youth Challenge Coach.
“In addition, it is a real eye-opener for those of us who have never lived through anything like this and at the same time provides us an awareness that actions as simple as listening, supporting and explaining can have such a significant impact on their lives, to the point of becoming a benchmark for them”, adds Tobias Schwender, M&A Director at Cellnex and volunteer for the programme for the second year.
It is common for employees to repeat this type of opinion and for them to recommend that other colleagues take part, owing to the positive emotional feedback that it provides. Sandrine Parpet, ambassador of the Foundation for Cellnex France underlines the huge change in the non-verbal language of some of the adolescents involved: “sometimes they adopt an attitude of mistrust when they arrive, with their arms folded, but little by little they relax and end up asking if it would be possible to do an internship with us.” In other cases, the young people are surprised to admit that they imagined office work to be more boring or that they would only ever find a job working in a factory.
After the good results obtained with each successive edition, the programme will continue during the next academic year 2023-2024. It will even be extended to Poland, where it will focus on promoting STEM careers and female talent in rural areas. Cellnex Ireland, for its part, is also committed to digital knowledge as a tool for social integration and has joined the “Academy of the Future” initiative promoted by CONNECT and Dublin City Council, to train and raise awareness among young people about the role of connectivity in the development of Smart Cities.
Thus, activities such as coaching, mentoring, visits to Cellnex offices and control centres, active learning workshops and academic orientation will continue to act as drivers to foster the interest, learning and motivation of young people who have only just begun to build the foundations of their future and their professional career.
Many thanks to all the Cellnex volunteers who make it possible!