How can we fix ‘DIS’ system? Approaches to the Demand, Intermediation and Supply Nexus of Youth Employment Projects (Part 3)
Part 3: Career guidance centre in Kosovo bridges the gap between VET schools and private sector
In our third and final blog about labour market interventions in Eastern Europe we will talk about career guidance centres for students of Vocational Education and Training (VET) in Kosovo. The story describes how a new and sustainable approach towards career guidance ensures VET students and private companies receive better services.
In our three blogs we have discussed the potential of the HELVETAS’ Market System Development approaches to strengthen the job markets of Bosnia, Albania and Kosovo. Each story focuses on different, yet interconnected, aspects of the labour market system and today’s story focuses on interventions that help to strengthen both the supply side and intermediation services of the labour market.
EYE (Enhancing Youth Employment) project, funded by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), was started in January 2013 aiming at increasing job opportunities for Kosovo youth by matching their competencies with the market needs. Through its project partners and private sector investments EYE intends to enable job-seekers to gain better access to vacant positions and make informed decisions about their career paths.
What is the problem?
Like many other countries in Europe and around the world, young talented alumni of the vocational schools in Kosovo struggle to enter the job market after completing their studies. Access to the labour market is difficult, because on the one hand the linkages between VET schools and the private sector are underdeveloped and on the other hand the curriculum of the VET schools is lacking a practical orientation, which means that students do not possess the skills required by the labour market.
Several pilot initiatives for career guidance and counseling services have been undertaken in Kosovo over the last decade. Unfortunately, previous attempts at establishing career centres have not been very successful. They were often not cost-effective in the sense that the institutions were not able to share or align responsibilities or increase the number of users. Other initiatives managed to develop a successful decentralization model, yet the centres depended on subsidies from donors and ultimately were dissolved when funding was stopped.
After having identified the major challenges, EYE designed an intervention that would ensure future career centres are able to achieve success both in term of scope and sustainability. When EYE first introduced the idea of the career centre for VET students, the newly elected government in the municipality of Pristina showed much interest in this intervention and after further discussions both parties signed a MoU in November 2014 to establish the Prishtina Career Counselling Center (PCCC). The PCCC aims at linking VET schools (there are 8 VET schools in Pristina, with a total of 7018 students) to private companies, supporting the local economy and developing the labour market in the long run.
The centre was established in March 2015 and since then EYE provides the centre with technical assistance and contributes to establishing linkages and partnerships with the private sector. The key challenge is to develop career guidance services that are relevant, integrated and cost-effective. To be able to provide such high-quality services staff must be trained and supported by guidance, tools and a network of experts and professional contacts. The centre provides students of VET schools with opportunities to acquire additional knowledge, skills, and experience necessary to be successful in the labour market. At the same time the centre promotes the image of VET schools in order to change the public perception towards VET students.
A sustainable model
Unlike many other initiatives, EYE does not provide any funding to the municipality for running the career centre; it supports the centre by improving the quality of the provided services through training and capacity development. To ensure the financial sustainability of the centre, EYE designed the intervention in such a way that the centre would not become dependent on external donors. Demonstrating its commitment to improving job opportunities for VET students, the municipality allocated the necessary funds to pay for all expenses of the career centre, including salary of staff, rent, etcetera. In the future, when the centre is well-established and has shown its value, private companies may also be required to pay a certain fee for using PCCC’s services.
Bridging the gap between private sector and VET schools
Over time, the PCCC will provide students with more extensive career counseling services, however at this moment, the centre focuses on another major issue that challenges the job opportunities of VET students. Until today there is hardly any exchange between private companies that require high-qualified personnel and the VET schools. These companies, for example in the area of agro-processing, textile or metalworking industry, usually have no idea what the curricula at VET schools look like. And as a result they do not know what skills the students actually possess (or lack). Instead of going to a career centre they place a job-ad in a newspaper or they simply use their network of friends and family to look for a new employee. Only after hiring they will find out whether the new recruit actually has the required skills. By bridging the gap between the private sector and the VET schools, the PCCC will help to ensure that private companies are able to find and hire the high-quality personnel they need.
How is this achieved? The PCCC has established a database with information about the students (# of students, area of profession, skills obtained, contact details, etcetera) and a database about the business sector (# of employees, sector, future staff plans, etcetera) and is using this information to match students with potential employers. Furthermore, educational programmes in Kosovo do not usually offer sufficient applied training and as a consequence students often lack practical skills, which is the reason why recently internships have become very important. By finding companies that are willing to offer such placements, the PCCC ensures VET students have a better chance to secure a job after they have completed their studies.
What is next?
Establishing a solid and long-term relationship among all parties involved in the PCCC (staff, the municipality, VET schools and private sector) will be a key factor for the success of the career centre. EYE will provide the necessary background support, e.g. in terms of capacity development, promotion and networking, while the PCCC partners will take ownership of the career centre and commit to the long-term action plans.
While it is too early to talk about successes, it is worth noting that several other municipalities have also become highly interested in the Prishtina model. Municipalities in Vushtrri (where a career centre already existed, but funding ran out), Gjakova and Peja have all approached EYE to ask for support in developing a strategic plan to implement the PCCC model in their municipalities. It is a promising start to an ambitious intervention and we look forward to sharing with you the experiences of the career centres in Kosovo in the near future.
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