Pope meeting National Vocational Training Confederation (CONFAP) in the Paul VI Hall Pope meeting National Vocational Training Confederation (CONFAP) in the Paul VI Hall  (VATICAN MEDIA Divisione Foto)

Pope: 'All young people deserve equal job opportunities'

Meeting with the National Vocational Training Confederation (CONFAP), Pope Francis encourages the Italian Catholic network to focus its attention on young people from disadvantaged backgrounds who are marginalized by the job market and feel rejected by society.

By Lisa Zengarini

Pope Francis welcomed to the Vatican on Friday members of the Italian Vocational Training Confederation (CONFAP) on the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of foundation.

The Confederation was established in 1974, upon the initiative of the Italian Episcopal Conference (CEI), to serve as a coordinating body of existing faith-based vocational education and training organizations that help lower-skilled young people and adults learn new skills to find an employment and remain employable.  

Today it is a network of 36 organizations and associations with a total of 285 Professional Training Centres, some 8,000 trainers and around 70,000 students trained every year.

An important service to society

Addressing some 6,000 members of CONFAP in the Paul VI Hall, Pope Francis warmly thanked them for their work which, he said, , inspired by the social doctrine of the Church, provides a “vital service” to society,  not only because they offer state-of-the-art courses but, most importantly, because they reserve special care and attention to disadvantaged and marginalized young people.

“With your daily commitment, you are an expression of the rich and varied spirituality of various Religious Institutes, which have in their charism service to young people through professional training.”

The vulnerabiliy of young people in the work market

The Pope noted that young people  are particularly vulnerable in the work market today: some are neither employed nor in education (NEEN), some are forced to seek a job elsewhere often not finding opportunities that match their dream; other  are employed in precarious and underpaid jobs, and others even resign.

In the face of this situation, Pope Francis stressed the need of an adequate labour legislation, but also to build a “generational turnover where the skills of those leaving are at the service of those entering the job market”, that is where “ adults share the dreams and desires of young people, introduce them, support them, encourage them without judging them.”

The Pope urgedthe Catholic vocational training agencies to focus their attention in particular on young people from disadvantaged backgrounds who often feel rejected by society and are therefore exposed to the risk of other forms of degrading exploitation.

New technologie and AI changing the work landscape 

He then reflected on their mission of training which, he noted, is all the more important  today in an ever-changing work landscape due to the new technologies and the development of artificial intelligence.

In this regard, Pope Francis warned against two opposite temptations: that of technophobia, that is, the fear of technology, and technocracy, that is, “the illusion that technology can solve all problems.”  

The only answer to this challenge, he stressed, is instead  “continuous, creative and always updated training.” At the same time, the Pope  added, we must also commit to restoring dignity to some jobs, especially manual ones, which are still socially little recognized today.”

Valid professional training antidote to school dropout 

“Valid professional training is an antidote to school dropout and a response to the demand for work in different sectors of the economy,” Pope Francis insisted, remarking the need for a close collaboration with families and a “healthy and effective” relationship with companies who offer work.

“Together with technical skills, human virtues are important: a technique without humanity becomes ambiguous, risky and is not truly educational.”

Finally, Pope Francis reflected on their work of qualifying young people for a profession, which, he recalled, is what defines us a people.

“Work is a fundamental aspect of our life and our vocation”

Work must be at the service of the common good

He noted that today we are witnessing a degradation of the meaning of work, “which is increasingly interpreted in relation to our earnings rather than as an expression of one's dignity and contribution to the common good”. Hence the importance of training courses that “are at the service of the overall growth of the person, in his spiritual, cultural and working dimensions.”

Concluding, Pope Francis encouraged CONSAP to continue  their valuable service: “Through your creativity you demonstrate that it is possible to combine work and a person's vocation”, he said, because “good vocational training enables us to do a job and, at the same time, to discover the meaning of our  being in the world and in society.”

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03 May 2024, 13:14