YouthSpark Star

Basque Interns

These 16 young people from
Basque landed internships at
Microsoft offices across Europe.

The Right Kind of Brain Drain

Youth unemployment is a big issue across Europe—at 23 percent for people under 25 years old—but it’s especially problematic in Spain. There, more than half of people under the age of 25 are not working; the rate recently hit a record high 56 percent.

To combat youth unemployment, the government of the Basque region of Spain, which stretches through the Pyrenees Mountains near the border with France, invested nearly US$8 million in the Global Training Program. The program offered 430 young people the opportunity to work internationally. Though usually governments fight “brain drain”—the large scale emigration of populations with technical skills or knowledge, particularly young people—the bleak state of youth unemployment calls for new measures.

Microsoft hosted 16 young people in offices across Europe: Belgium, Germany, Italy, Norway, Portugal, and the United Kingdom. The collaboration demonstrates our commitment to bringing education, employment, and entrepreneurship opportunities to 300 million young people around the globe through Microsoft YouthSpark.

The Basque interns attend a conference in Brussels called Youth, the Key to Spain’s Future

Nearly all of the 16 young people have finished their internships and are now either employed with Microsoft or another company, or are in the process of being hired. Before they participated in the program, none of these youths could find jobs and all were unsure of their future work prospects.

One of the interns, Alvaro Mungia, said he jumped at the chance to work abroad for such a large company. “Working at Microsoft was thrilling. I was in a new city in a new country with a new language and new people and a new job,” he said. “It was challenging but an amazing opportunity to learn so many new things.” Alvaro is currently interning as a support engineer for SharePoint Escalation Services at Microsoft Norway.

Rebeca Solis del Campo interns with the education team in Norway for Microsoft Partners in Learning, which helps educators implement technology in the classroom. She values her job traveling to classrooms to work with teachers, and hopes to be hired after her internship ends in November.

Montserrat Pardo Bayona, the government affairs director for Microsoft Ibérica, said the internship teaches the young people computer skills not available in schools.

“It provides a unique opportunity to learn more about the Norwegian culture,” said Rebeca. “Besides improving my English, I have learned Norwegian and can communicate in that language with my coworkers.”

Rebeca is happy to be able to work in the education field. Some of the other companies working with the Basque government chose not to employ those who looked to teaching as a career. The answer from Microsoft was different.

“We said, ‘Yes, definitely,’” said Montserrat Pardo Bayona, government affairs director for Microsoft Ibérica. “We really need teachers that see what technology can do for students.”

Most schools in Spain are not equipped with computers and cannot follow the lead of other countries in prioritizing information and communication technologies (ICT) studies, Bayona said. The country will need 700,000 professionals who have ICT skills by 2015.

Earlier this year, the interns in the program attended a conference in Brussels called Youth, the Key to Spain’s Future.

The event brought together corporate executives, government officials, entrepreneurs, and youth for a daylong event. Speakers at the conference, including Microsoft leaders, lamented the employment situation across Europe. But they sounded notes of hope because of the efforts like the one benefitting the young people from Basque.

The potential of the Basque youth, backed by one of the world’s leading companies, prompted one member of the European Parliament to honor Microsoft. Eider Gardiazábal, who is Basque and also the president of the parliament’s Youth Intergroup, said after the event that she planned to nominate Microsoft for a major Basque philanthropic award.

Beyond the recognition, though, the practical advantages of Microsoft working to help the youth of Spain are the opportunities created for more young people. Bayona said that prior to the Brussels event, the Basque government wasn’t sure whether to continue with its investment in the program.

After that event, the sentiment changed. The program is expanding, with other regional governments of Spain looking to become involved. Microsoft managers across Europe, and now even Asia, are looking at Spanish youth to fill internships. For the second installment of the Global Training Program, which begins in October, the Microsoft requests for Basque students have doubled to 32.

“Our intention is to repeat the experience,” said Bayona. “This wasn’t a one-shot deal. It’s a long-term collaboration.”

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