JA Worldwide nominated for the 2024 Nobel Peace Prize. Read more.


JA Europe and The Alliance for Youth are working together to teach young people the soft skills so hard to find by CEOs

24 May 2018

In recent years, numerous surveys about the future of work have been trying to identify key skills for tomorrow’s jobs. There is a clear consensus on the fact that industry leaders were unsure if they could actually find these skills even though they conceded that it is precisely these skills that are critical to tomorrow’s business success. A vast majority of CEOs say that even today they struggle to find recruits with the levels of creativity and skills in innovation their businesses need.

Soft skills have always been on the radar of employers but they are becoming increasingly important given the rise of automation and artificial intelligence. The World Economic Forum itself has identified the “10 skills you need to thrive in the Fourth Industrial Revolution ” by 2020. All of them are what we commonly call soft skills. Therefore, business managers must focus on developing human resources that provide what machines cannot. New entrants on the jobs market have a future brighter than it may appear but only if they are empowered and enabled to enhance their employability now.

Now is time to acknowledge that the skills gap cannot be resolved only through technical and vocational skills. Vocational, digital and STEM skills do play an important role in preparing our youth for their future career. However, these need to be complemented by other actions to fully address the skills gap. More than a decade after the latest financial crisis, the unemployment rate for youth remains high, and accounts for nearly three times the average rate for the adult population . How can today’s young people maximise their employability in tomorrow’s employment market?

The Entrepreneurial Skills PassTM (ESP) is part of the answer. Created in 2013, the ESP is the certification that helps students and employers capitalize on soft skills. This unique international qualification certifies that students (15-19 years old), who have had a real entrepreneurship experience, have gained the necessary knowledge, competences and skills to start a business or be successfully employed. It certifies three interconnected achievements: 

  • a practical entrepreneurial experience (1 school year mini-company experience, namely JA Company Programme);
  • an assessment of entrepreneurial competences (creativity, perseverance, resourcefulness, self-confidence, taking initiative, taking responsibility, teamwork);
  • an examination of business, economic and financial knowledge (1 hour-online test).


With more and more students having the opportunity to follow the JA Company Programme (341 000 in 2016-2017) and getting the ESP certification, there is growing hope that Europe can fill the skills gap identified by its business leaders.

Helped by their teachers and by business volunteers, students participating to the JA Company Programme learn how a company works, how they can generate ideas, and the best way to develop market strategies and take action. Thanks to the programme, they acquire experience in teamwork; they learn how to develop an initiative and take responsibility.  They understand how economics and finance contribute to the project’s success. They apply math, science, language, writing, technological or specialized skills in a practical way. The Company Program culminates with the ESP certification, which spurs their self-confidence, contributing to success – their employers and their own.             

Today, the ESP is implemented in 28 countries and available in 22 languages, involving 28.000 students, 1.000 teachers, and many more volunteers from companies and business. To date no less than 8.000 students have passed the ESP.

Since 2017, JA Europe and the 'Alliance for YOUth' have joined forces to activate youth employment through entrepreneurship. Founded by Nestlé, the 'Alliance for YOUth' is a business-driven movement pledging to help young people be better prepared to enter the professional world, and improve their chances in a challenging job market. To support current and future youth employment, under the lead of Ernst & Young (EY), many ‘Alliance for YOUth’ members (including AXA, EY, Firmenich, Nestlé, Nielsen, Salesforce and White & Case) have committed to contribute to the Company Programme providing entrepreneurship education dedicating training, coaching or mentoring time to students. The aspiration of this unique pan-European collaboration is to support more than 1000 secondary school and vocational students in obtaining the Entrepreneurial Skills PassTM (ESP). Successfully launched in Spain and in UK, the initiative is looking to on-board more companies and to potentially expand its support in Bulgaria, France and Romania for future school entrance. 

If you are interested to know more about the program and how we are activating youth employment through entrepreneurship or if you would like to join the 'Alliance for YOUth' initiative, please contact

Mathilde Poncelet, Policy & Communications Manager, JA Europe

Karen Ernberg, Ernst & Young
Alliance For YOUth – Junior Achievement program coordinator

Frédérique Naulette, Nestlé
Alliance for YOUth EMENA program manager

We updated our privacy policy which has been specifically adjusted to reflect the new GDPR regulation Learn more.

I accept cookies from this site: