Nestle SA (VTX:NESN) announced plans Thursday to hire at least 20,000 European youths by 2016, amid growing concern at the continent’s failure to improve job prospects for the young.
The positions will be available to people under 30, and will include apprenticeships and traineeships, according to the company.
Nestle’s executive vice president for Europe, Laurent Freixe, said governments alone cannot solve the problem of European youth unemployment, without significant help from the private sector.
Nestle also said it would encourage its European suppliers to offer jobs to the young in Europe.
According to Nestle, it employs about 100,000 people in Europe and created 3,000 jobs in 2012.
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The world’s largest food company, Nestle owns about 150 factories in Europe. Its top European markets for its sales include France, Germany, and the U.K.
“In the context where Europe is aging and indebted, Europe needs its youth at work,” Freixe told Reuters. “We need to replace the generation of the baby boomers when they retire.”
Freixe presented the plan to EU officials in Brussels on Thursday, just as EU leaders opened a summit on tackling youth unemployment in Europe.
The European Commission has called for 6 billion euros in funding to combat youth unemployment, to be spent in the next two years rather than stretched out over a seven-year period.
EU Labor Commissioner László Andor tweeted on Thursday that he was “impressed” by Nestle’s initiative.
Youth unemployment in Europe stood at 22.8 percent of workers under 25 in 2012, according to the official Eurostat agency, compared with 16.2 percent youth unemployment in the U.S. and 8.1 percent in Japan.
In the first quarter of 2013, nearly 6 million young Europeans were unemployed, with a quarterly rate of 23.5 percent, more than twice the unemployment rate for the rest of the population.
Further details of Nestle’s plan will be revealed in September.