NEET in Trekking
In partnership with: Associazione WARROLS
Breaking down the barriers that stop vulnerable young people from achieving their full potential, while building up sustainable, accessible tourism products that safeguard and promote the Itrian Valley’s outstanding natural heritage.
You may have the universe, if I may have Italy. Giuseppe Verde’s love for Italy is shared by the millions of tourists who visit its iconic attractions every year. Many of the hidden beauties are also being explored, although other equally striking parts of the country –the Itrian valley for example, the rolling, limestone plateau, criss-crossed with dry-stone walls and quaint cone-shaped trulli houses – are not being fully exploited.
The Barsento nature reserve, a designated protected site in the valley since 1986, offers dense woodland, timeless rural landscapes, and breath-taking geological phenomenon but the local population does not recognize its worth and local authorities have not invested in it. It lacks proper signage or mapped trails to make it more accessible and those who do come to walk are often greeted with the unappealing consequences of fly-tipping and poorly managed environmental services.
A Mayan prophecy called this rolling valley the safest place on earth. Unfortunately, it is no longer that for the many young people living there. Youth unemployment and migration are far higher than the national average, 33.1% are NEET (not in employment, education or training). There is also a 70% higher risk of people from immigration, disabled or disadvantaged backgrounds becoming NEET. Dropping out of education leaves a gaping hole in career pathways and isolation from the labour market;
unemployment leads to loss of self-esteem, poverty, depression and disengagement. These are alarming issues and they need to be addressed with system-wide actions that facilitate youth enterprise and invest in the lost potential of Puglia’s most prolific economic sector: tourism.
NEET in Trekking aims to propel 25 young Italians who are neither employed, job-seeking or in full-time study back into education, work and society. From studying ecology and biodiversity, trekking and Nordic walking, to surveying the landscape and cleaning up trails, the project will invest in their abilities and offer five of them the opportunity to deploy their enterprise-building abilities in a start-up with the real-life task of safeguarding local heritage and running new accessible excursion products.
Warrols connects young people to an expert and multi-disciplinary support team and business enterprise professionals that will guide them through selection, orientation, practice in the field and launching a start-up.
To begin with, it works with local social services, the “Garanzia Giovani” programme and a public recruitment programme to select twenty-five young NEETs who would benefit the most from the opportunity.
Once inducted, they receive training to build their confidence and knowledge in a variety of pertinent fields – from ecology and biodiversity to path mapping, trekking and accessibility – to give them transferable skills for real-life career challenges. A monthly allowance will be paid as they study, and a certificate issued on completion to attest skills obtained.
The knowledge gained is then used to study the valley and rate its trails, the findings collated into a publishable report. On the strength of this assessment, action needed to protect the woodland and landscapes is identified and groups organised to make at least fifteen trails more accessible and attractive to a wider range of tourists, including the disabled, the elderly and children. To facilitate this, all debris and obstructions is removed, the trails physically marked out using red and white signage then plotted manually on paper charts and via GPS mapping.
Up to five individuals will then transfer this information to a publishable format for distribution to tourists and promoted on a dedicated website. For each path, cartographic information, a detailed description, the level of difficulty, and degree of accessibility will be indicated along with the GPS route.
To conclude, test trekking events – organised and led by the young NEETs – will invite mainly over 65s, children, people with disabilities and local residents and tourists to use the new trails.