June 6th, 2009 Rome
June 6th, 2009 Rome
In the previous six year period, amongst initiatives to develop the quality of education in our schools and professional training centres, there was already an effort to promote a greater awareness of the importance and urgency of education for work. One sign of this effort was the address by the Youth Ministry Councillor recorded in AGC 368 (July-September 1999) “Salesian Youth Ministry and the world of work”.
In 1997 an investigation carried out by the YM Department was published. This was led by Fr Luc Van Looy, and the Institute of Sociology at the UPS, and its subject was Salesian Professional Training. We find there an overview of the situation of Professional Training in the Congregation, its circumstances, problems and future perspectives. It is a tome which has not yet been fully appreciated.
In the meantime, and almost everywhere, but especially in developing countries, we find a host of services and proposals have come into being, all aimed at preparing young people at risk for work: centres, formal or informal programmes of technical and professional training, some very interesting experiences for creating worketc. These initiatives, which came about through the pastoral zeal of certain confreres, developed particular in the parish or Oratory setting, also in technical school running evening classes, but they were not given a great amount of consideration or coordination by Youth Ministry planning in the provinces.
Salesian International Mission and Development Offices, along with some NGOs in the development area, gave much accompaniment and support to these initiatives, as we see in the development of Technical and Professional Training Centres in many of the African, Asian and Latin American provinces. I take the opportunity to thank you for your own involvement in supporting and defending these programmes in the context of the large International Development Aid bodies; if many of these educational services for young people at risk have developed and multiplied throughout the provinces it is, in large measure, owed to your efforts.
Over these years I myself have received and have offered stimuli that encourage the Congregation to take up this characteristic sector of the Salesian mission again, and foster greater attention to and coordination of these works and services in the provinces, see to their growth in the quality of the education they offer, and facilitate a more effective search for future resources.
In this sense the YM Department has, in recent years, fostered reflection on Technical and Professional training and education to work in the continental Salesian School Commissions (Europe, in Krakow, March 2004; America in Santiago di Chile, January 2004); there was a seminar of reflection run by some Salesian experts in these initiatives to understand what's happening and prepare a process of relction and study in provinces in the Interamerica Region (Quito, March 2004). The Provincial Conference for Africa and Madagascar has carried out an initial reflection and asked the Department to call a meeting of representatives interested in understanding the issue more deeply So we can see that an ample process of reflection, sharing and coordination has been set in motion, taken up again today to help provinces to renew the quality and effectiveness of their involvement in the education and accompaniment of young people starting out in the working world .
The young people entering employment, young workers, young unemployed are specific beneficiaries of our mission.
Don Bosco, in his educative and pastoral option for needy youngsters, was greatly concerned about the working world. He began his work in Valdocco by taking in young people looking for work, unemployed migrants, and then gathered them, sought work for them, tried to set up work shops for them where they could learn a trade and receive an appropriate religious and moral education.
Right from the outset, an involvement with young workers was an essential aspect of the Salesian mission and was expressed, in a special way, in the abundance of technical schools and like initiatives which became one of the best known features of the Salesians in many countries, especially developing nations.
This constant direction of the Congregation from the outset is brought together in article 27 of the Constitutions: “Young people from poor areas who are looking for work and young workers in general, often encounter difficulties and easily become victims of injustice. Making the concern of Don Bosco our own, we go to them to prepare them to take their place with dignity in society and in the Church and to alert them to the role they must play in the Christian transformation of social life”.
As well as technical schools, many Oratories and Youth centres, Parishes, etc. can give special attention to young or unemployed workers, helping them find acceptance, and to be proactive, offering an approach that helps them settle into their environment, or by providing initiatives that respond to their most felt needs Sometimes we find it difficult to reach these young people because many of our activities are more suited to young students or university students with a certain culture and intellectual capacity. A few places have seen initiatives for education to work, assistance for self-employment, work bursaries, or similar initiatives, all signs of the interest and concern of many confreres and collaborators.
The aim of our educational intervention is not only to ready young people for work but to enable them to suitably carry out their calling in a dignified way and thus collaborate in the Christian transformation of society. This aim obliges us to ensure that the educational programmes in our Centres for technical and professional training have certain priorities like the centrality of the individual, respect for economy, preferential attention given to the weak while seeking the common good, safeguarding the dimension of free giving in the face of the overwhelming power of profit, professionalism expressed through personal, professional competence, fostering models of equitable development which will counteract the inequality found in the system.
This concern for offering the young in search of work a holistic education should involve all communities and all Salesian works, not just technical and professional schools We find in art. 2 of the Regulations “The provinces should encourage a commitment to the education of young workers. ... They should try to be well informed about the world of work and the conditions in whcih young people are working. They should see that centres of professional training pay head to pastoral, pedagogical and technical aspects and adequate programmes should be drawn up to educate the youngsters to the spiritual aspects of work”.
These are important and urgent tasks requiring a serious evaluation, especially since the world of work is changing so rapidly, altering the requirements of business and employment opportunities; the young are the ones who experience these changes most.
Pedagogy of work as an important element in an holistic Salesian formation and education.
Many young people are exposed to or have already had the experience of failure at school or have problems of personal, family or social integration. For them, a positive, well-planned work experience, followed up with educational criteria, can be an excellent opportunity for personal rehabilitation; a young person can acquire self-esteem, rediscover his or her skills and abilities, appreciate work well done and be motivated to take up his or her own formation.
This means that our educational proposal offers ample room for experiences of work, community service, work in "non-profit" organisations, seeing in all of this the chance of personal fulfilment and serving the common good of the community. It also means fostering qualified and meaningful contacts with people, institutions and settings in the world of work, promoting dialogue, mutual understanding, encounter, and collaboration which is formative. This is why works and services of professional training need to network with schools, businesses, public administration and many other works and services of a social and educational nature.
A Gospel orientation which is open and available to evangelisation
“Like Don Bosco we are called to be educators to faith at every opportunity” our Constitutions say (art. 34). This is why all our activity and work on behalf of young workers must offer them a humanistic and Gospel vision of social and economic reality and of the world of work, through religion lessons, moral formation and studying the Church's Social Teaching; we have to develop a pedagogy of values and offer spiritual experiences and openness to God as a gradual initiation to prayer and celebration; offering experiences too of freely given service and solidarity for the poor, beginning with those in one's own setting; etc. This way our educational presence and activity will be a sign of the Gospel and a path opening up to evangelisation.
From the contacts and experiences we have had there seem to be some concerns which deserve special attention and faced with which, the Department would like to help provinces to find the way to respond.3.1. Professional training requires special support
In developing countries professional training is ever more important; the majority of young people, especially the poorest amongst them, are on the margins of schooling, at least after primary education; for them, professional training or rapid preparation for work is the only way open for being able to fit into the world of work and into society positively.
This is also why besides the many professional training centres many other initiatives and services have developed for immediate preparation of young people for work. All these works and services require significant investment, costly maintenance, constant updating and a lot of creativity, things which a community or province cannot always guarantee.
Another aspect of this support isthe technical, pedagogical and Salesian formation of the staff, instructors, formators; many of these are people with good will, ready to share what they know, but not always qualified, with poor pedagogical sensitivity and little understanding of the Salesian style and spirit; they can also be poor and needy, needing to prgress and earn more.3.2. Ensuring holistic education
Another important concern for the Salesians who animate and run these centres and services is offering these youngsters a holistic formation and education; here we are dealing with not just forming a worker, but a person, one able to responsibly take up his or her mission in life and in the working world, someone with a sympathetic view of life and society, open to the religious dimension. At times these same youngsters, seeking a quick and easy dollar, are simply concerned with learning some techniques so they can immediately set to work and get some money.
In many of these services, the young people are only there short term, which means a precarious and limited educational influence. Salesians too often feel obliged to spend lots of energy finding resources to aid the functioning and development of the centre, finding it difficult to develop their more specific mission, which is the educative and Salesian animatiion of the educative community.3.3. Finding work for the young people who have completed their formation
An important indicator of the effectiveness of professional training is the ability to lead the young to find work and fit in positively with it; this is the only way of guaranteeing the results of the training received and avoiding emigration or falling by the wayside.
But in many poor, precarious situations, this is difficult: work is scarce, insecure and offers little prospect of professional progress; the lefts of the young in these cases are not well respected, and too often one sees a mentality of easy, quick financial gain, without concern for the future.T
hese same young people who, their training over, find work, need to be accompanied and supported in fitting in, and to continue their training. All these concerns require a global project that considers more than just courses, but also sees to ensuring that the formative phase includes practical work experience with businesses, to guarantee that those who are finishing will find work, to foster their experiences of self-employment, to help businesses work together in the formational accompaniment of the young they employ, etc. A project of this kind usually is beyond the resouces of a single educative community.3.4. Integration of these works and services into the educative and Pastoral Plan of the Province
Sometimes some of these works and services come about through the initiative of a confrere or community but more complete development means that it is the province as such that takes up the project and guarantees its continuity, effectiveness and Salesian quality.
Educational attention given to young workers should not only be the concern of some confreres or works in the province, but should involve everyone in a network following a broad project which every work can give its own specific contribution to. This means that the attention is written into the SEPP of the province and involves the various animation teams, especially those responsible for the school, marginalisation and social services. There is still a long way to go for this.3.5. Self-sustainability of professional training centres and work readiness programmes.
The financial continuity of professional training centres, with the growing cost of maintenance and investment, is of considerable concern in many provinces. The Mission and development OFfices and NGOs have supported the early steps taken by many of these centres, presenting their projects to international funding organisations; but this help is not enough for the long term; other sources of funding have to be found, bearing in mind especially that many of these centres cannot survive on the contributions of their pupils and their families nor from state subsidies. There has to be thought given to production projects which can ensure this funding.S
etting up these projects requires people who are prepared for managing production enterprises, people who understand the techniques of business financing, the world of marketing and market research etc., something relatively rare amongst us and our lay collaborators.
This production initiative must also always respect the formational and educational nature of the centre, without imposing formation requirements on production needs.
In responding to these concerns it is especially necessary to foster, amongst SDBs and the educative community a mindset which is more sensitive to the working world so that attention to these young people who are setting out for work may be something that all Salesian communities share. This requires:
I together with this a renewal of our thinking is also needed in order to foster a new method of educative and pastoral work by means of projects and processes carried out through collaboration and networking.
Our way of working is often too sectorial: each work or sector only concerns itself with its own specific fields, without perceiving that today a truly effective operation requires working on multiple aspect contemporaneously, which influence the reality we seek to transform. For example: if we want to educate young people so they can fit into the working world responsibly, it is not enough just to think of their technical, professional training, but we have to get them to fit into the complex world of work so we can foster new experiences and possibilities of collaboration amongst the young; we also have to concern ourselves with transforming the local area so it will allow new work initiativesand development, so youngsters who have been professionally trained don't have to go elsewhere to seek work, and can be helped where they are to create and develop their ability to serve everyone
Formation, creating work, human, working support and accompaniment, helping develop the local area, etc. these are the elements of a broad project which, it it were to become sectoralised, would lose much of their possibilities.
Evidently a project of the kind cannot normally be carried out by just one institution, and requires that many others work together so that different points of view and different skills converge and collaborate towards a common objective.
This way of working through wide-reaching projects and through networking is as yet barely developed amongst us but we can see its results especially in this field of the promotion and education of the young beginning work; this is why it also becomes an important concern for the Department.H
ere then are the elements that I regard as important for properly setting up Salesian Professional training.
I am sure that your experience in fostering and sustaining these centres and initiatives of professional training over the years around the Salesian world can enrich and fill in the vision presented here.
All together, sharing the same frame of reference: criteria, objectives, priorities, we will succeed in renewing and giving full significance to this field which is so characteristic of our mission: the education of young people setting out to work.
Pascual Chavez V.
General House Rome, 6 June 2009