Keeping young talent in Spain

Estefania Arias Conde is a One Young World delegate currently working for Teléfonica in Spain.

For nearly a decade, Spain has suffered economically and nowhere has this been more apparent than in the job market.

Crippling unemployment rates have hit all ages but economic hardship has been most severely felt by Spain's youth. In the Summer of 2013, youth unemployment in Spain hit an all time high of 56.1%.

And although the economy is recovering – growth has been its fastest since the end of 2007 - in 2013, 547,980 people left the country; an 80% increase from 2012 with the majority of those migrating being young people.

But it is no surprise that Spain is hemorrhaging young talent. 

Spain’s rather conservative and hierarchical society does not help the situation. Young Spaniards find it difficult to find employment opportunities, employers tend to prefer experience over the tenacity of youth. 

Over the past year, the proportion of the Spanish population aged 15-39 shrunk by 3.1% (477,851). Such figures paint a worrying picture for Spain as it attempts to retain its young workforce - a key group in building a more prosperous future for the country.

The sense of destitution among young people was captured by one of largest and most comprehensive millennial surveys conducted to date. The Global Millennial Survey (GMS) found that more than half of young Spaniards believed their country’s best days were behind them and highlighted areas like Asia as the new drivers for economic growth.

So, what can be done?

According to the King of Spain, Felipe VI, entrepreneurialism is the key. Speaking at Global Entrepreneurship Week he said:

“Entrepreneurship is synonymous with creativity and opportunity.. it ensures a clear path towards employment, wealth creation and thus a better future for our country.”

According to the GMS nearly 80% of Spanish millennials agree. The problem is that feedback from the GMS also showed that three quarters of young people feel there’s little to no opportunity to become an entrepreneur.

What can business do to change this?

Solutions must come from the business community and it is up to young people in business to make this happen.

At Teléfonica, I have had the opportunity to participate on initiatives like Think Big and Wayra, which support grassroots entrepreneurialism.

Think Big, Teléfonica’s youth development programme, gives young people the money, support and confidence needed to pursue their own ideas, while Wayra, Teléfonica’s digital accelerator, turns these ideas into digital products and services for market.

The great thing about programmes like these is that they also involve Teléfonica’s young workforce. My colleagues and I have become mentors and guided young people through their entrepreneurial journey, which in turn promotes good values and intrapreneurialism from within the business.

What I have come to realise is just how important it is to keep investigating new ways of building a more stable, dynamic and well-functioning economy. A great idea can come from almost anywhere. If Spain were to remove some of the cultural boundaries hampering youth, you will be surprised at the results.