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23 septiembre, 2019


Álvaro Retortillo Osuna

Santa María la Real Foundation


“If I have been able to see further on, it has been because I’ve stood upon the shoulders of giants”. Isaac Newton



The situation of the job market in countries in the south of Europe, and particularly in Spain, has been characterised during the crisis by its bold overtones, with an unemployment rate which in our country’s case almost reached 27% The active employment policies brought about by the different public authorities were shown to be insufficient in the face of a reality which was too much for the approaches adopted to date. Traditional training for employment and/or professional training worked as necessary central points of the process to overcome the situation, but its tendency towards the passive and individualistic consideration of the unemployed person as well as its focus on certain sectors of the group of unemployed people made it necessary to formulate new methods. But, as Stefan Zweig said: “Let’s not regret: regrets don’t solve anything”

In 2013, before the alarming situation that crossed through Spain regarding unemployment, from the Santa María la Real Foundation, we committed ourselves to fight against unemployment in a different manner: as a team, shifting the focus to the people, dealing with the emotional factors as well as the professional ones when it came to training employability and, above all, showing that a person can be unemployed, but not necessarily be stagnant. In many occasions, the unemployment stigma is not always true and if the appropriate means and channels are created and we trust these people, the situation can be turned around. This is how the Launchpads for Employment (Lanzaderas de Empleo) Programme was born, as well as how over 580 experiences throughout the whole country and more than 12,000 people who have taken part have taught us priceless things.

The isolation associated to unemployment brings about harmful consequences, as to why the Launchpads combine the job search with collective empowerment, a shared, solidary and comprehensive vision. Also, despite the terrible economic crisis that we have suffered, there are unemployed people with highly appreciated skills for the job market, and vast professional experience, etc., As well as with some highly significant personal qualities. This is an exceptionally valuable element, both for a person’s own development as well as with regard to what they can offer other people such as human capital that deserves to come to light and must be taken advantage of.

If we compare the current situation of the job market with that of 2013, we cannot deny that the panorama seems a lot more promising today. As shown by the information from the latest EAPS, the unemployment rate has decreased considerably. At a national level, we have gone from 26.94% to 14.45% at the end of 2018, but this doesn’t mean that there is no work left to do. The more than three million unemployed people and unemployment rates which we currently have remain shameful for a developed country, and what the post-crisis period has shown is that there have been individuals that have been left behind from the labour market. And this risk is growing, based on what the information shows and the effect from the technological divide in jobs.



The problem of unemployment is not just an issue for the Government: it is a problem for society as a whole. Society therefore, has to get involved in solving it, as people can’t be left idle, even if they receive benefits. Time spent unemployed can and must be used to improve the human and professional dimension. The programme takes as its starting point that everybody has something to offer to others, regardless of their situation in the labour market. Unemployed individuals can help their comrades improve their work and life expectations.

It is necessary to focus the solution of the problem on the unemployed themselves, because they are the ones who, by mutually helping each other and with society’s support, can find the energy, incentive and knowledge that they need to come out of their situation. Unemployment is the problem, but millions of unemployed people can never be a problem. They are their own solution.

The basic philosophy of the project consists of considering unemployed people as human beings, rather than surplus labour; as priceless human capital rather than a burden; as leaders, in control of their own destiny rather than patients or victims of a crisis. It goes from being welfare to being existential. The Launchpads consider the unemployed individual as the bearer of the competences needed to face the situation, and thus apply a work programme designed to promote the acquiring, development and/or discovery of said competences. The Launchpads try to use teamwork to get unemployed people out of isolation, loneliness, discouragement and invisibility, and introduce them to a situation of visibility and proactivity, with the collaboration and support from solidary people and non-profit organisations.


Drawings by José María Pérez “Peridis”, creator of the idea.

Launchpad for Employment is a team of unemployed individuals: volunteers: active: visible and caring people who, coordinated by a professional, mutually support each other to improve their employability and collaborate on the active job search for all and each one of the participants.

Launchpads for Employment focuses on looking for jobs in other companies, although it also promotes entrepreneurship and the updating of professional and personal competences by means of practical and transversal training. The Launchpad is based on a solidary spirit of collaboration and works by means of a way similar to a company, with its own strategic plan, plan of objectives, structured by departments, etc. Those who take part are committed to working together, to mutually help each other to find a job, set up their own projects and improve their professional skills. Its members work like the Three Musketeer: “one for all and all for one”. Each person looks for work for themself and for the rest, and the rest look for work for themselves and for the other person. Everybody trains and develops together.



To date, more than 580 Launchpads have been developed throughout the whole country, reaching more than 12,000 people and with a success rate of over 60%: people, who find a job, launch a business initiative or re-enter the regulated training system. The Programme has been externally evaluated with a control group in two separate occasions, by Red Crea and the University of the Basque Country, showing its effectiveness not only with regard to insertion in the labour market, but also in other highly important aspects, such as people’s emotional improvement.

With the recovery of the economy, the unemployment rate decreased considerably, but said recovery has not reached all sectors equally. 47% of people have been unemployed for more than one year, which significantly reduces their chances of re-entering the job market. The analysis done tend to be economistic and technical. Unemployment benefits are mentioned many times, such as costs for the system, training adaptation, etc., but very little about people and the emotional impact and the social deconstruction that unemployment generates for them. As people, we don’t just work to earn a wage; work also means a lot more to us, as it is the principal means of social integration. This is why collaborative methodologies such as Launchpads for Employment are shown to be so effective, because they reinsert people into an equal structure in which they can contribute, help and be helped, and in which unemployment is proved to be a phase which does not have to be experienced with shame, but rather a period in order to return to the playing field as a stronger person. In a world full of uncertainties, where the digital sector plans a threat on the job market, the Launchpads are needed more today than ever.



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