Author: E2E Youth Employment Initiative (Social Inclusion Blog)
My own shop is a dream come true – Ivan’s story
“For years I tried to get the job I love, be a hair stylist,” Ivan Milenković begins his story. “However, in Leskovac many salon owners will hire a skilled professional, and then show no appreciation for him. After some time, I just gave up, and started doing other work, but I didn’t find myself in it. I simply lost hope, I didn’t believe in myself or the system”.
Yes, I can!
“Last year, at a regular meeting with the National Employment Service counselor, I was asked whether I would be interested in starting my own business. I was, but I had some doubts and qualms because I thought I was young, inexperienced and immature.
Eventually I decided to go for it, because I had nothing to lose. I embarked on this whole project with some reservations, and I even thought I would give up very soon. Already at the end of the first session, I realized that it was not such a big deal as I previously thought. Of course there’s always a risk that you might not succeed, but I completed the ten three-hour workshops.
Soon after, the NES published an open call inviting applications, and I got a subsidy. Things were moving fast and I think that helped me not to overthink. I started with the works, the reconstruction of the hair salon, procurement of supplies, I didn’t have too much time on my hands to sit and think, and wonder “what if…”.”
How does it feel?
“I can’t even begin to tell you… It feels like I’m floating on a cloud. On the other hand, I also gained respect, thanks to my experience and age. I’m proud of myself, because I started my own business at 23, and am able to pay my bills, taxes, contributions, and supplies. I tell everyone not to give up, and I also tell them there’s always a risk. Now I feel fulfilled: when I start something new, and it works out so well, I am as happy as a kid. I have changed a lot, I have had to give up a lot of things, and now I’m trying to encourage others to think positive too, it’s not all gloom and doom. I believe I’m much more mature and I gained a lot of experience and self-confidence”, concludes Ivan, who has been running his hair salon for a year now, doing what he loves.
When fantasy becomes reality – Nataša’s story
Nataša Pavlović studied law school for three years, but she quit and went back to Leskovac. “I graduated from the secondary school of economics, and I have always had a keen interest in bookkeeping. I enrolled in a course, and subsequently needed to gain some practical experience, but had no one to turn to. So, I spent the next year and a half looking for a job.
Nobody wanted to hire me, not even dress shops, not even for work that required no specific experience or skills … I tried once, twice…I was turned down seven times. Although I was occasionally discouraged from continuing, I did not give up. I worked at a market stall selling goods in the heat and cold, and later on as an undeclared worker in a store.”
Don’t lose hope
“And then one day I got a call from the NES, and they asked me if I was interested in doing an apprenticeship. Of course, I said yes, and I joined the Sing Bookkeeping Agency. We were given an induction, and started working right away. Already after three days, the employer told me I would be offered the job. I’m still in disbelief, and so are the people around me.
My whole story sounds incredible, but it is real, evidently. There’s hope for everyone. Good things happen and will keep happening.
You must keep trying, learning and investing in yourself, and don’t lose hope. It you can’t find work, enroll in a course, training, apply for an apprenticeship and, who knows, this might open a new window of opportunity for you.
After this experience, I feel great, I am more self-confident, I feel more capable, I can progress, I want to keep learning as much as possible, and pushing forward, because you can’t miss a good opportunity.”
“A good team of co-workers, a good employer, a friendly atmosphere, no yelling, no tensions. Everything gets done, the job is perfect, as far as I’m concerned. I love my work and I want to keep on learning – that makes me incredibly happy. What matters to me most is that when I wake up in the morning I don’t dread going to work. Quite the contrary, I go to work filled with joy and satisfaction.”
Trainings for prospective entrepreneurs and work-based learning
Nataša and Ivan are among the 50 youth from the Jablanica District who took part in the first phase of the Youth Employment Initiative, a project that helps youth develop their own business model and increase their employability, with the financial support of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation.
Local youth entrepreneurship and employment network
“Our vision is for every young man and woman in the Jablanica District, and all of Serbia, to become part of the world of work, whether by starting their own business, or by finding gainful employment”, says Srđan Dimitrijević from the Leskovac branch of the European Movement in Serbia, an organization that implemented this model of support to youth employment.
“In a region that has been plagued by unemployment and deprivation for decades, we created a cluster consisting of 40 small and medium enterprises, the High Business School of Vocational Studies, the Rade Metalac Technical School, the Science and Technology Park, the City Administration for Social Activities, and Youth Offices of Leskovac, Lebane, Medveđa, and Bojnik. This is a local network supporting youth entrepreneurship. We got support to improve the model, we got extremely useful advice, guidance, recommendations for changes, and for the first time, expert support. Essentially, there was a breakthrough in terms of the practical implementation of public policies”, believes Srđan.
The model they are implementing involves two target groups. One consists of prospective entrepreneurs who complete a cycle of ten three-hour thematic workshops, followed by a mentorship programme for a period of minimum three month. The second group consists of youth who are looking for a job, and they take part in our work placement programme implemented in cooperation with employers. These work placements last for a month and a half, and envisage an additional nine hours of training for increasing employability.
The greatest achievement
“This model has proven effective with all trainees, irrespective of whether they were subsequently employed, or started their own business, or perhaps discovered some entirely different plans”, says Suzana Dimitrijević from EPuS. “They developed as personalities, because the model was designed in such a way as to enable them to rapidly develop, improve their skills, and increase their motivation. Nevertheless, I believe that its greatest achievement is the change in the perceptions of youth from this region, in realizing that they can work here, and live off their work“.
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