Author: E2E Youth Employment Initiative (Social Inclusion Blog)
“Do you work in your chosen field?”
To this question Nenad Milovanović had the same answer in the past 11 years: “No”.
After completing the Kragujevac Polytechnical School, and in the absence of jobs in the field of mechanical engineering, this young man has been doing odd jobs for livelihood.
Hungry for knowledge and development, in February last year he applied for the Local Partnership for Youth Employment programme offering opportunities for the improvement of professional skills, work-based learning and employment.
“Over a period of two months we had four assessment cycles and we knew exactly – whoever passes the test, goes further. We trusted the selection process, which had a huge impact on motivation, because we could see that our efforts are appreciated. The training programme in the Polytechnical School was followed by an apprenticeship in a company”, say Nenad, who has been working as a CNC operator for a year now.
The Youth Employment Initiative, through which 12 young people found employment, and 23 completed training programmes, was implemented by the Kragujevac Business Development Centre (BDC), which implements numerous activities and programmes to help young people increase their chances in the labour market, by improving their competitiveness, and facilitating their placement with employers.
A survey of employer needs in the metal sector showed that there was a mismatch between the young job seekers’ knowledge and the market and employer requirements, explains Marija Stojadinović, the coordinator of this initiative.
“We decided to pilot a programme that will help young people refresh the knowledge acquired in school, and then to complement it through work-based learning. We partnered with the Kragujevac Polytechnical School and several companies, Milanović Engineering, Unior Components and Gorenje MDM, with the support of the National Employment Service. Trust among the partners was key to the success of this initiative”, Marija emphasized.
The Social Inclusion and Poverty Reduction Unit had faith in us and supported us in the first phase of the project, which was implemented with the financial support of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation. As there are over 5,000 young unemployed in Kragujevac, our model was replicated in the same sector, with the same partners, and with the financial support of the city. This phase was successful as well, and eight candidates were employed”, say Marija, adding that the model was tested in the wood, metal and IT sector in the two cycles of project support.
After a six-week apprenticeship, Petar Ristić, a robotics technician, also got a job:
“Being one of the 12 candidates recruited among 100 applicants is a sure confidence booster!”
The project funded real needs, enabled the employment of youth, and met the company’s recruitment needs, says Ana Račić from Milanović Engineering adding:
“We would be very willing to participate in a similar initiative again, because the candidates referred to us by the Polytechnical School and Business Development Centre were the best ones. During the apprenticeship and training they showed motivation and eagerness to work.”
A combination of theory and practice
“Generally, people avoid working in production, and are more interested in administration and computers. But practical knowledge is necessary to understand the whole cycle”, according to mentor Miloš Vučenović from Milanović Engineering, who adds that the role of the mentor is important, in teaching the young apprentices as much as possible.
Practical knowledge and understanding of the entire production cycle was one of the motivating factors that prompted Vesna Krstić to apply for the work-based learning programme. “Although I graduated from the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering in 2013, I saw a CNC machine for the first time when I came here – I didn’t even know how to turn it on, let alone programme it. Theory and practice are two completely different things”.
That theory and practice need to go hand in hand is confirmed by Siniša Kojić, Director of the Kragujevac Polytechical School: “The school was responsible for the training programme – eight days of vocational training and two days for soft skills. The curricula were adjusted to adverse circumstances in the nineties, so work-based learning was very limited. And you cannot have high quality vocational education without work placements. We are trying to change that now by improving our curricula”.
What do the figures say?
“A cost-benefit analysis shows that for every dinar invested, we get nine dinars in return. Everyone benefits: unemployed people now earn an income, the companies do not need to invest as much to get a qualified worker and the society at large benefits from the revenues from taxes and contributions, consumption is boosted, and the social security system has fewer unemployed to take care of”, explains Nemanja Jovičić from the BDC.
“In addition to the achievements, knowledge and experience we gained, getting a job like this is incredible”, Vesna concludes.
This article was originally published on the Social Inclusion Blog.
The E2E project has been supporting youth employment and employability in Serbia since 2015. The Youth Employment Initiative is part of the Education to Employment (Е2Е) programme, funded by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, implemented by the Social Inclusion and Poverty Reduction Unit of the Government of Serbia. If you want to learn more about the project, click here: www.socijalnoukljucivanje.gov.rs/YEI and znanjemdoposla.rs