VEVEY, Switzerland — Some 200 companies on Thursday pledged to create new work and training opportunities for Europe's young jobseekers, of which one out of four is unemployed.
The alliance of major companies including Nestle and Google aims to create tens of thousands additional jobs — or apprenticeships and internships that lead to jobs — over the next several years.
"We are confident that more than 100,000 opportunities will be given in the coming years, but it should go beyond that," Laurent Freixe, CEO of Nestle Europe, told reporters at the company's headquarters.
Nestle, the world's biggest food and drinks maker, is leading the alliance which includes Adecco, AXA, Cargill, CHEP, DS Smith, EY, Facebook, Firmenich, Google, Nielsen, Publicis, Salesforce and Twitter and White & Case. Freixe said Nestle has created 8,000 of the 20,000 new positions, including paid internships, which it promised to generate by 2016.
Europe's lack of growth while recovering from a crisis over government debt has resulted in a painful employment rate above 10 percent. Among youth, joblessness is at more than 20 percent and more than twice that in Spain and Greece. Northern countries such as Germany generally fare much better.
Unemployment especially among youth is hampering economic recovery in Europe, said Freixe, who is convinced that bringing along younger workers fluent in the new digital world can help boost Nestle's productivity in Europe.
"It's a tough economic environment still and Europe really stands at a crossroad," said Matt Brittin, Google's president for business and operations in northern and central Europe. "We need to turn our kids into brilliant digital entrepreneurs."
The "Alliance for Youth" is intended to help ease the transition from education to employment by helping young people gradually build their knowledge and skills. It's also meant to encourage companies to take the risk of giving young people their first jobs.
"Very often there is a mismatch between what people are learning at schools and universities and the needs we have as employers," said Frank Van Lierde, Cargill executive vice president. "We feel that companies have an important role to play in filling this gap."
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