by Ana Pérez
For a few decades now governments have invested large amounts of funding (not least from the European Social Fund) to lift people out of poverty via education, starting in early childhood. A number of projects and programmes are currently funded that provide quality early childhood education to children coming from disadvantaged backgrounds. In paralell, there are also a number of programmes that help adults, especially women to acquire new skills and competences offering opportunities to finding and keeping a job. Often however, we miss the bigger picture, that these programmes would make much more sense, if they would go hand-in-hand.
We know of a number of “accidental two-generation projects”, in which mothers would have been unable to attend the courses they signed up for without childcare, so the labour office or municipality had to improvise childcare for the children of the beneficieries. Or the other way round, a number of Sure Start centres have experimented with involving more the parents of Roma children, and offering them parenting support and even teaching them some basic skills, to enhance their chances for finding employment.
We at COFACE believe that it is time to move on, and start thinking in a much more systemic or integrated way, and plan for and implement deliberate, quality and accessible two-generation programmes, that will both fulfill the obligations on early childhood education and care targets, and also help women’s employment across Europe.
Therefore, COFACE and Eurofound are organising the roundtable “Two-generation Early Childhood Education and Care programmes” on September 23rd (from 9:00 to 13:00) in Brussels. The aim of this roundtable is to highlight two-generation programmes that consider early childhood education centres as platforms for attracting parents into education and training.
Why are two-generation programmes relevant?
Two-generation programmes focus on policies, services and practices that create opportunities for and address the needs of both vulnerable parents and children together.
For children, two-generation programmes can include health and education services, such as early childhood education, and services. For parents, it can be parenting, language courses, educational and training programmes etc.
The objective of a two-generation programme is to build human and social capital across generations by combining education or job training for adults with early childhood education for their children.
In addition to providing quality, affordable and accessible childcare these programmes, as integrated part of active labour market polices, could provide alternative to Europe’s pressing socio-economic problems such as the high level of unemployment by targeting vulnerable groups such as parents with young children, low-skilled workers, long-term unemployed, people with disabilities, etc.
In today’s economic and social climate, in particular high level of young unemployed and long-term unemployed at the EU labour market, two-generation programmes should place a high priority on preparing parents for jobs and providing with them up-to-date skills and knowledge that will advance them in finding quality employment. In parallel, programmes must be designed to reply to the high level of skills mismatches.
With this seminar, by showcasing inspiring examples and introducing the latest ECEC related EU level policy developments, COFACE and Eurofound aim to project how two-generation programmes could strategically contribute to helping parents stay in job trainings, and enhancing their success in finding employment.