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High Youth unemployment (those under 25) is one of the biggest problems in the Spanish labour market. Youth unemployment rate is 39% and it raises up to an alarming 57% (63% in the case of young women) for young people with no educational qualifications (those with no diploma, not even secondary school).

If we factor in disadvantaged personal situations such as coming from low-income families, belonging to groups facing discrimination on the basis of their country of birth or ethnic origin, residing in run-down neighbourhoods, lack of contact networks, etc. (circumstances which are not reflected in the official statistics), the real likelihood of finding a job drops exponentially, putting many young people on the brink of vulnerability and social exclusion.

Employment policies will only have an impact on these young people if specific initiatives are implemented targeting those who are having the most difficulty. It was with this objective, i.e. to respond to the reality faced by those most at risk of vulnerability and social exclusion, that the Fundación Secretariado Gitano developed the idea of the Learning by Doing project.


‘Learning by Doing’ is an intermediate labour programme that offers dual training with frontline companies to unemployed young Roma between the ages of 16 and 30 who experience social hardships.


  • They are keen to find a job and build a future for themselves but lack the skills and professional qualifications the labour market demands.
  • They are not familiar with how companies work in terms of employment opportunities.
  • They have great learning potential although they are frequently unaware of it.
  • They sometimes lack the support they need from their families, often due to their limited financial resources. This stands in the way of their persevering in long-term social and labour inclusion processes as they need to seek alternative ways to support their families.




The methodological model of “Learning by Doing” is based on two training periods during which tutoring and accompaniment are essential. The involvement of private enterprises is also key, they offer work-based training and it is their commitment throughout the process what makes of this programme a real gateway to social inclusion. 

1st PHASE – Building cross-cutting knowledge and skills  

Over the first few weeks, activities focus on deepening their self-knowledge and team building. Basic skills needed in the labour market are also taught: basic literacy and numeracy skills, digital skills, organizational skills, responsibility, interpersonal skills, etc. Participants are also introduced to different trade sectors through visits to companies, presentations by HR professionals and basic theoretical training allowing them to begin work-based learning.

From the very beginning, companies have been key players and have actively participated in both, the design of the project and in familiarising participants with the different jobs by sector: HR people give talks about labour issues, different posts (tasks involved, skills needed, etc.).

2nd PHASE - Work-based training

In the “learning by Doing” project, most of the learning takes place at the workplace. Once participants complete the initial orientation weeks (classroom-based training), companies take over and provide them with practical-based training in reak working environments.

The comprehensive training provided by the company allows participants to practice the skills required to do different jobs within the company. The aim is to train versatile workers and increase their likelihood of being employed.  During this period they continue with theoretical training and cross-cutting skills are further reinforced. Individual tutoring of each person also continues.



“Learning by Doing” was made possible thanks to the economic support from the European Social Fund in the framework of the 2014-2020 Operational Program Youth Employment, with the support of the Administrative Unit of the European Social Fund under the Ministry of Employment and Social Security.

Also, the collaboration ties that the Fundación Secretariado Gitano have with “la Caixa” Social Work regarding the labour market integration of vulnerable groups led to a co-funding commitment for this new project which has enhanced the likelihood of employment for many young people facing difficulties.

This public-private economic support forms part of the Entrepreneurship and Employment Strategy Targeting Young People in which the Fundación Secretariado Gitano take part.

The Fundación Secretariado Gitano put professional employment teams formed by salaried workers and volunteers engaging in counselling, enterprise mediation, etc. in charge of the technical design and development part of the project. Training and tutoring of the different organisations was vital for all activities; 22 full-time staff engaged in accompaniment and part of the training of the participants and also coordinated with the directors of the collaborating companies. 

In addition, 29 volunteers helped with the personalised support of each participant. We would also draw attention to the internship tutors in the companies. These are workers who generously give of their time to make sure that the young people are progressing adequately in their studies.

Through close collaboration with the public administrations, social entities and private companies, we have managed to implement an intervention model showing very positive results in the labour market integration of young people facing social difficulties.

Close collaboration between public administrations, social entities and private companies has been key in implementing “Learning by Doing” and making this intervention model very positive for the labour market integration of young people facing social difficulties.   


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.


Participants enter the programme after a very careful selection process. Candidates are selected on the basis of their socioeconomic profile, attitude and motivation towards employment and specifically towards the proposed training. Special attention is given to their set of skills to make sure it matched the type of training proposed.

In these 10 years:

  • Over 14,800 young persons were pooled
  • Over 7,600 young people attended the information sessions  
  • Over 5,800 were interviewed
  • 3,544 passed the selection process to begin phase I
  • 2,820 were able to go on to the work-based training phase at the company (HR interview at the company, Selection Committee: Company + employment services of the Fundación Secretariado General Gitano)


The impact of the project goes beyond the participants and reaches also their family members, which means that in each edition over 1,200 people indirectly benefit from it.

Participants tend to come from large families (four members on average) that subsist on very low incomes (€570 a month, i.e. €142 per person), usually pensions or welfare benefits. Only 56% of family income comes from earnings, mostly from part-time or off-the-books jobs and to a lesser degree, from self-employment. In 58% of cases, participants come from families where all members are unemployed. These families live in a very precarious financial situation since a large part of their sources of income are temporary or unstable and this puts them in an extremely vulnerable position.

The 440 participants in the first stage received a stipend of €6 for each day they attended. The 352 who took part in the second stage received €350 per month.

Fundación Secretariado Gitano's "Learning by Doing" programme, winner of the EESC Civil Society Prize 2022

On December 15th FSG's Learning by Doing programme received the 1st prize of the Europan Economic and Social Committee (EESC) Civil Society Prize 2022 in the category "Empowering Young People".

The specific objective of the 2022 Civil Society Award is to reward effective, innovative and creative initiatives carried out on the territory of the EU aimed at creating a better future for young people in Europe, addressing their specific needs and contributing to their empowerment and participation in all spheres of economic and social life.

The Civil Society Prize is awarded for 'excellence in civil society initiatives'. Each year, the prize covers a different aspect of the EESC's work.