SDC projekat implementirao Helvetas i MDA

The Promise of Employment during COVID-19: Non-Formal Training and ICT Skills

By: Lisar Morina, Zenebe Uraguchi

How has the outbreak affected job seekers?

According to the IMF, the COVID-19 pandemic is set to trigger a 5% reduction in Kosovo’s GDP for 2020, affecting many industries and an already fragile labor market. Social distancing, downsizing, layoffs, and business interruptions have pushed many into unemployment or losing income sources.

For many job seekers—especially the youth—navigating this unprecedented economic shock often means thinking about gaining new skills. It also means completely rethinking career choices as their job outlooks have taken a turn for the worse.

It is no big news that Kosovar ICT companies are often approached by international clients with proposals to ‘nearshore’ ICT services to Kosovo. Such opportunities must often be turned down due to a shortage of skilled labor as well as a lack of targeted local training opportunities that enable young Kosovars to acquire the right skills.

However, plenty of local actors are looking to change this. At the Enhancing Youth Employment (EYE) project of the SDC, we are constantly looking to support innovative non-formal training providers who offer demand-oriented and socially-inclusive training packages. Demand for non-formal training surged during the COVID-19 crisis. 

Fostering ICT skills through practical training

Whether young people are looking to make a career change or gain new skills to improve their job outlook in Kosovo, one of the best ways to achieving that is non-formal education. But what is non-formal education? Simply put, it’s about short-term training provided by private training providers that are tailored to the needs of the market and jobseekers, meant to quickly upskill and improve employment prospects for participants.

Two of our partners stood out for attracting young people looking to enter the labor market: Baff Works & Cactus Education. Baff Works is a software engineering company based in Kosovo. It has brought together a technology-driven team of professionals in the software development, ICT, and education sectors to foster software engineering in Kosovo by providing practical training for all levels. 

The EYE project supported Baff Work’s training as they held great potential in equipping young people with the skills to think and code like a programmer. The training also offers programming skills that are tailored to labor market needs, and vastly improve employment prospects for participants.

‘My time in this training was extremely helpful for me,’ says Ariot Ymeri, 22, who participated in the training. He first attended the training due to his desire to understand programming from an experienced professor but expresses that he learned much more than he expected. ‘I first attended the Java course for beginners to learn about the basics of object-oriented programming and Java, and then proceeded with the advanced one,’ adds Ariot.

During the time Ariot was attending the course, he had already been searching for a job amidst the pandemic. This is where his new qualifications became handy and proved to be of great help. Immediately after the training, his teacher at Baff Works recommended him for a job as a salesforce developer trainee. Ariot landed the job shortly after undergoing two interviews. He is now working full-time on a platform that serves as the biggest global platform for data processing, sales, and marketing for businesses. 

‘One of the main advantages of the non-formal training we received at Baff Works was the small size of our group—15 students worked with 3 experienced tutors who fully committed their time to ensure we understand the subject matter,’ explains Ariot.

It isn’t just job opportunities that skilling and upskilling in non-formal training has been offering young people. It also provides a unique outlook and skillset for those aspiring a career in programming. ‘I saw the advertisement on Facebook, and I had initially decided to attend as I was curious about Fatos Maxhuni’s [the tutor] teaching style, as I had heard great reviews about him,’ shares Rrite Dedaqi. 

The tutors were adapting to the students’ level, which Rrite found great. She managed to learn the programming language Java, in quite a unique way that also taught her the basics of programming in general. After finishing the training, Rrite also got employed as an intern at the recommendation of her tutor—she now works at Start-Cons, which is a partner of Salesforce based in Switzerland. 

The future of work also means digital works

The convergence of both rapidly evolving technologies and the COVID-19 pandemic has led to rapid shifts in the labor market. The key to preparing young job seekers for the digital future of work is the transformation of education and training.

As it stands today, most actors in the labor market are using an education system that was designed to grow and equip a workforce for the industrial age. Unfortunately, we are no longer in the industrial age. The old education system placed a lot of emphasis on routine and specialized knowledge. However, this won’t work in the digital future.

Supporting this transition will be the transformation of work, the key enabler of which are both new technologies and the COVID-19 crisis. We have all now reached the front of the line. It’s time to cast aside the trappings of the industrial age and boldly imagine our new future in the post-pandemic world —one that looks very different than the world we left behind. Reimagining the future of work in the post-pandemic world is a little bit scary, but it’s also thrilling as we brace ourselves for what we know is going to be a bumpy but amazing ride.

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