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Learning by Doing, an initiative which improves the lives of young Roma people through training and employment [editar]

55% of trainees have been hired and 87% of participants say it has improved their lives


Learning by Doing, an initiative which improves the lives of young Roma people through training and employment

“I was unemployed for two years. We became homeless, we were moving around from one place to another, we didn’t know where we were going to end up. I signed up to Learning by Doing because I wanted to get training and get a job”. This is the story of Miguel Lizarraga, a participant in the Fundación Secretariado Gitano’s Learning by Doing programme. He is now part of the staff team at the local supermarket Alcampo.

María Bruno proudly tells us: “I want to work just like anyone else and I want to grow as a person, like anyone else. Just because I´m Roma doesn’t mean I can’t do it”. María took part in Learning by Doing in Madrid, with the company BricoDepot. “I go to work really happy, it’s a place I love, I´m surrounded by lovely people. They´ve treated me like a person and not like the new girl, the new Roma girl”.

Miguel and María are two of the more than 3,500 young people who have been through the programme launched by the Fundación Secretariado Gitano ten years ago, as part of their training and employment programme Acceder, with the aim of promoting the employment of young Roma people.

Learning by Doing is a training project which aims to meet the needs of thousands of young Roma men and women without training or qualifications, who come from families in situations of exclusion and great social vulnerability, and who need to enter the labour market at a time when we are witnessing record youth unemployment rates. Among the Roma population, 63% of young people aged from 16 to 29 are neither working nor studying, and they face unemployment rates three times higher than those found in the general population.

Learning by Doing applies a methodology which has been consolidated over time: a combination of alternating theoretical and practical training in an authentic working environment, with the close involvement of the companies, a training pathway designed to rotate through various working roles, and the support throughout the process of a tutor from the Fundación Secretariado Gitano.

The first Learning by Doing project was launched in an Andalusian city, Jaén, in 2013, and now the programme has reached 41 cities across almost all regions of Spain: Andalusia, Aragón, Asturias, Cantabria, Castile and León, Castile-La Mancha, Catalonia, the Autonomous Communities of Madrid and Valencia, Extremadura, Galicia, Murcia, Navarre and the Basque Country.

Some key elements of Learning by Doing

Among the key elements which have made Learning by Doing a flagship training initiative, certain ones stand out. For example, it is aimed exclusively at young Roma people, specialising in long-term interventions relating to training for employment.  In addition, it uses an innovative methodology, collaboratively designed and implemented by two NGOs, the Spanish Red Cross and Fundación Secretariado Gitano. It was similar to the dual training model emerging at the time, but adapted for young people without basic academic qualifications. According to Sara Parra, head of the Services Sector at Bricodepot in Getafe, “within the methodology of Learning by Doing, for me the role of the tutor stands out. Support, follow-up…. both for the participants and for us as a company. I believe that this is one reason for the success of the Fundación and the Learning by Doing programme”.

Another essential aspect is undoubtedly the fact that the programme is financed by the European Social Fund, through the Multi-regional Operational Programme to Combat Discrimination and later through the Operational Programme on Youth Employment. From its beginnings it has also been supported by “la Caixa” Foundation as co-funder, which provided for medium-term planning and project stability.

The involvement of companies - a vital element

The involvement of companies in all phases of the project is another of its central elements. Through Learning by Doing, 66 companies are involved in providing training and opportunities for labour market inclusion to young Roma men and women. Leading companies among this number include Carrefour, Alcampo, Ikea, Bricodepot, Eroski and Corte Inglés, operating in the 41 cities in which the initiative has been launched.

Ana Fernández, head of Human Resources at Ikea in Oviedo, declared after participating in the programme that: “at Ikea we have been enriched by what it has brought us over the years. This element of diversity, of seeing things in a different way… makes us all more creative, makes us grow more and helps us create a better place to work”.  

The last ten years have seen 169 Learning by Doing projects, reaching more than 3,500 young people signed up to the National Youth Guarantee System who were neither in education nor in work. The main results of the programme show that 55% of trainees have been hired and 32% have returned to education to obtain basic academic qualifications. Furthermore, 87% of the young people participating say it has improved their lives, while 94% of the companies involved say they would be willing to collaborate with Learning by Doing again.

The value of public-private partnership

After these 10 years of the project, and given the results and impact achieved, Fundación Secretariado Gitano is aware of the need to continue pushing forward tailored measures to achieve labour market inclusion for Roma people in general and young Roma people in particular. Initiatives are needed which can improve people’s lives, and this requires the collaboration of social organisations, public authorities, private organisations and companies.

At the Fundación Secretariado Gitano, we are grateful for the involvement over the last 10 years of the European Social Fund, the Ministry of Social Rights and 2030 Agenda, “la Caixa” Foundation and all the companies who have placed their trust in our work.


10 years of Learning by Doing