Voluntary Labour Corps is a state budgetary unit supervised by the relevant Minister for Labour, performing tasks described in the Act on Labour Market Units and Promotion of Employment, specialised in actions for the benefit of youth, especially youth jeopardised by social exclusion, as well as unemployed aged less than 26 years. Since 2009 Voluntary Labour Corps (OHP) conduct actions which stimulate the activity of young people. Their structures are strongly outlined, the idea is that interested parties apply to the local Job Centres. One of such centres is located in Praga Północ district, an area especially affected by unemployment of young people. The OHP, supported by EU funds, tries to find access to young people, who have difficulties with entering the labour market. The organisation assists them through finding contacts to job agencies and job market advisors, as well as offering training on how to be competitive on the labour market.
The services carried out in Praga Północ focus on employment exchange, but persons involved in the project may also choose the ‘’path of support’’. It consists of four group classes and two individual classes, where grantees are provided knowledge on how and where to look for a job, how to prepare relevant documents and how to behave during a job interview. As the interviewed consultant of the Job Centre for the Youth explains: “young people receive advice from us how to enter the job market and not to get lost in it’’. For 15-16 year olds these are often information about the following steps in their education. The purpose is to support young people in entering the job market and helping them to be flexible on it.
The activities carried out within the project in Praga Północ started in December 2009 and will end in June 2014. The project will then require new funding if the management of the Voluntary Labour Corps decides to continue activities in the given area. The interest in the project is significant. During the whole period of its duration, 244 persons took advantage of the ‘’path of support’’, within which courses were performed and the project’s organisers received feedback that the persons had got a job or at least had their first job interview behind them. Moreover, during the duration of the project a few thousand young people were involved who searched for information about job offers. The project was not divided into stages but remained in the same form since December 2009.
The search for beneficiaries takes place on various levels. Firstly, there is a common self-support of Job Centres located in selected districts of Warsaw. Beneficiaries are also found via Internet, on portals for young people looking for jobs. There are also meetings and open days organised for young people, as well as events in schools, where services are offered using mobile job centres. The project is also boosted by the media.
Perception and use of the concept of diversity
The target audience of the project ‘Job Centre for the Youth’ are mostly young people in jeopardy of social exclusion, which was the main reason for its location in the district of Praga Północ. Therefore, there is a direct relation to fighting negative diversity embedded in the concept of the initiative. This diversity derives from the social and economic identity of the district’s citizens. It can be assumed, that the major aim of the project is to act against the effects of class inequality, by balancing the opportunities of young people from poor, and often dysfunctional families, with their more wealthy peers. In this respect the main objective of the initiative is fostering local economic performance and strengthening social mobility of young people in a deprived area, where their ‘point of departure’ is considerably worse than in other areas of the city.
Main factors influencing success or failure
According to the respondent, a representative of the Praga Północ Job Centre, and a specialist in re-socialisation: “the main indicator of success is a situation where the assignee comes back and says that he/she found a job, or overcame some barrier related to a job interview”. Such situations are rare, however. The reason of this is sought by the interviewee in the lack of understanding of labour market rules shown by the beneficiaries.
According to opinions of the respondent, it is difficult to define the project as a success, which is due to:
– the specificity of the area where it is implemented, Praga Północ, were a considerable share of people are employed in the shadow economy and show no interest in entering the formal, legal labour market. As the interviewee claims: “even upon coming here and asking for a job they often say: Why should I strive here for a legal job if I can only earn half of what they pay me in the informal economy? Or if I can steal something and this will pay off?”;
– difficult communication with third parties – other, non-profit, private or public actors and employers with whom the Centre wants to cooperate in finding organisational solutions for its beneficiaries.
The ‘Job Centre for the Youth’ project in Praga Północ is an example of an institutionalised publicly coordinated and financed group- and area-based initiative which aims at the increase of economic performance of the area in question through the social mobility of young people, who are considerably affected by unemployment and being at risk of social deprivation. The experience of the five year project shows that the area is an extremely difficult field for such action. Without integrated tools of social regeneration, the project will only be effective in individual cases, while the general negative trend will not be easy to stop.
 A surprising phenomenon is the attitude of young people, who often have extremely high expectations, not corresponding to their skills. Despite no experience and professional preparation, they expect to easily enter the labour market and earn a lot of money. According to the respondent “this is a very sad situation, as their expectations quickly collide with reality”. Some assignees quit the training after two meetings, saying that courses are useless.