Bridging the gap between training and work in order to produce the new artisans of the future. It was with this objective in mind that Piazza dei Mestieri was created 14 years ago in Turin. It is «unfortunately a unique thing in Italy», said Dario Odifreddi, president of the foundation, «arising from the fact that may young people did not know what to do when they finished school». While unemployment is still running at 32% among young people in Italy, Every year Piazza dei Mestieri churns out cooks, hairdressers, head waiters ICT and graphics technicians who, with two more years of study still to go, have an employment rate of 75-80 percent. With an attentive eye also on the prevention of hardship among young people and the combating the tendency of some pupils to drop out of school, since here – in the heart of Turin – the possibility of excellent training is available «even for the most disadvantaged and discouraged, of whom it is said that they do not have any talent and privileging those who are prepared to roll up their sleeves and do something. Our selection process is based on objective and subjective criteria. It is what we call an educational agreement», explained Odifreddi.
With a mix of public and private funds, and considerable involvement of the business world, at Piazza dei Mestieri the young people are prepared for finding employment in the sectors of crafts, agri-food, hairdressing and beauty and new jobs in the world of ICT. New and “old” manual jobs exist together and are revived in an entirely new market. This is made possible also thanks to the collaboration of the businesses that offer 300 study grants awarded every year on the basis of merit and income.
At Piazza dei Mestieri training does not only consist of theoretical lessons. «Alongside the courses», added Odifreddi, «we carry out real production activities which are economically sustainable and operate on the market». Piazza dei Mestieri has created a restaurant, which ended up in the Michelin guide, and a pub, which has received awards for its beers, where the young people work and learn. Then there is a hairdressing and beauty centre run in cooperation with L’Oréal. Theoretical aspects are taught but pupils also come into contact with customers and learn how to behave behind a counter and at the till.
But there is more. With Piazza dei Mestieri a Senior technical school has been established which has received awards from the Ministry of Education for four years consecutively. And to help in finding employment for the pupils a Job Centre has been set up which follows the young people for two years after they get their diplomas.
There is an enormous demand for traditional jobs. The difference today is that they have to be rehashed, modernised and upgraded technologically.
At Turin there are 900 young people in all. The same number can be found in Catania where a branch school has been set up. Here in the south of Italy the restaurants that take part in the training network on the closed days are managed by the pupils of Piazza dei Mestieri.
The number of applications for enrolment in the courses offered by the foundation grows from year to year. «The demand is always higher than the number of places available», said Odifreddi. «But it is no longer a second choice. When we started 50% of the pupils came from previous school dropout situations and we represented a kind of last resort but today, for more than 80% of the pupils, Piazza dei Mestieri is the first choice after the middle school third year». There are pupils that come from difficult situations and now work in top class French restaurants. And there are also those who have created some of the most downloaded applications on Google Play.
Young and very young people who aspire to and become cooks, pastry chefs, hairdressers. «There is an enormous demand for traditional trades», said Odifreddi. «The difference today is that they have to be rehashed, modernised and upgraded technologically. Doing the job of a maitre or chef cannot be the same as it was ten years ago. There is a high demand for traditional trades but the reproduction of an old version is not what we need». Today every cook also needs to know foreign languages and food intolerances, a plumber needs to know the most innovative materials on the market.
Always on the leading edge, evolving and tackling a changing world.
The great advantage of Piazza dei Mestieri is that «beside the traditional professors that teach the programmes of the main subjects, the technical subject teachers are all professionals, people that make or have made a difference in the market». Without forgetting the “new trades”. «The enormous problem of companies that made investments in the “industria 4.0” scheme is that they need professionals that can’t be found, professional positions not codified and which we need to start creating in our senior technical schools which need to be supported in this way. Some progress has been made but more needs to be done», said Odifreddi. The rule must be: «Stay on the leading edge, evolve and tackle the changing world». Even for a hairdresser, an electrician or an underchef.