Unemployment is a social issue that concerns the young generation all across Europe. In order to address the challenges faced by Macedonian young people in the labor field, the Center for Intercultural Development (CID) developed and implemented a mobility project under the Lifelong Learning Programme – ”EU-work experience to increase employability”. The project aimed at building competitiveness on the labor market in Macedonia through practical work and volunteering experiences.
Between July 2013 and June 2014 six young women had the chance to develop various activities in four EU partner organizations from Belgium, Netherlands, Slovenia and United Kingdom. The selection process focused on candidates with fewer opportunities who had little experience in the labor field and who encountered obstacles on the job market. The six selected participants went through a preparation stage in which they had language classes and cultural preparation, provided both by CID and by the partner organizations.
Aleksandra Cvetkovska – Global Love Youth Trust (GLYT), Cardiff, UK (Nov-Dec 2013, 5 weeks)
During the preparation period Alexandra attended language classes as well as trainings on cultural adaptation and intercultural learning. She enjoyed meeting Daniel Carter from GLYT, who provided her with all the necessary assistance regarding her future work at their organization; the materials from CID also laid the foundation for her new life in the UK. Upon her arrival to Cardiff, Alexandra felt ready to plunge into a new culture and begin her learning experience. She had to perform the job of a youth worker; her activities included visiting several youth centers in Cardiff and attending trainings for youth workers. The most useful thing for her was learning the specific vocabulary for the field of youth work. Alexandra’s tasks included organizing an international training course for youth workers on the topic of sexual education, work on administrative and financial issues in the organization and practice at four youth centers in Cardiff.
While living in a student district in Cardiff, Alexandra enriched her experience by meeting young people from all over the world. She took the opportunity to attend cooking meetings and hockey matches; she also enjoyed the English breakfast in famous places and provided in return a presentation about Macedonia. Getting used to the public transportation system took a while, but was not a tremendous discomfort. The learning outcomes helped Alexandra find a job in the youth work field in Skopje, and she is happy she gained some skills that can be put into practice back home. She encourages everybody to take this opportunity into consideration: “I think this is once in a lifetime experience. Everyone should do this programme as part of their learning; it will help them make progress in their lives and become better people”.
Sanja Mihajlovska – Global Love Youth Trust (GLYT), Cardiff, UK (Nov-Dec 2013, 5 weeks)
Sanja was also selected to work at Global Love Youth Trust. She benefited from the preparation trainings and appreciated the good communication between CID and the hosting organization: „I learned about the detached system of youth work, the peer learning, the residential work and the issue-based projects, which were new terminology to me”. The psychological preparation on the culture shock was also quite useful for Sanja. As a primary school teacher, she learned the differences in approach on youth work between Macedonia and the UK. Organizing trainings and working closely with the youth is essential, thinks Sanja. She realized that youth centers are an important resource for youth education and integration.
Outside working hours Sanja enjoyed long walks in the city, especially around Christmas time; hanging out with the volunteers from GLYT offered her the opportunity to discover the charms of multicultural dialogue. Upon returning, she is ready to work in the youth field in Skopje, feeling eager about her newly developed intercultural skills. As part of GLYT, Sanja also helped with the final reports, which she regarded as a new experience in itself.
Brankica Zatarakoska – Young European Federalists (JEF), Brussels, Belgium (Sep-Dec 2013, 12 weeks)
Brankica was part of the Young European Federalists team for 12 weeks. She attended French courses prior to departure and learned many things related to cultural integration in Belgium. Meeting the Secretary General in Skopje also helped Brankica understand her future activities at JEF. Under his guidance, Brankica learned to make presentations of the organization to visitors from all over Europe. She also participated in an international seminar organized in Paris and witnessed the election of a federal and executive committee. Brankica remembers with joy her encounters with EU parliamentaries Doris Pack, Andrey Kovatchev and Andrew Duff.
During the three-month stay in Brussels, Brankica tried to fulfill her list of personal expectations by constantly getting in touch with people from other organizations and exploring the Belgian culture. Thus, besides gaining self-confidence and developing her organisational and communication skills, she changed her overall perspective on the European Union. She managed to break the stereotypes related to life in the EU and developed an interest in EU institutions: „I decided that I would like to continue my studies in the EU area and pursue the carrier of an EU administrator.”
Kristina Angelovska – Young European Federalists (JEF), Brussels, Belgium (Oct 2013-Jan 2014, 13 weeks)
Kristina regarded her experience at JEF as a roller coaster. Cultural shock hit her during her second month in Brussels. She had to learn French from scratch, which presented itself as a challenge, but she really appreciated the assistance she got from CID and from JEF during the preparation period. Having this support made the challenges less scarier and Kristina could literally enjoy the results of her progress. Her activities included preparing reports, dealing with EU funds, learning about the activities of the EU Parliament. „As an intern, I’ve learned about event organisation, communication policy, translations and website management. I also had opportunity to go to conferences of the EU institutions and partner organisations, contribute to editing publications and articles, travel to ongoing international activities and taste Brussels’ life”, shares Kristina.
This project helped Kristina improve her CV, which she realized is an important aspect of career-building. She made the decision to continue her studies in order to improve her skills. At the same time she found a job and became the president of the JEF for Macedonia. The three months she spent in Brussels are full of memories related to delicious beer and chocolate waffles, zumba classes and yoga practice in the park, as well as the French lessons. Kristina treasures this experience for both the professional education she gained and the cultural enrichment she experienced.
Sonja Jovanovska – UNITED for Intercultural Action, Amsterdam, Netherlands (Jan-Jun 2014, 23 weeks)
Sonja spent six months working with UNITED for Intercultural Action in Amsterdam. During the preparation period she had a pleasant time learning Dutch at the “Studio-M” school for foreign languages in Kumanovo; she was introduced in detail to the program itself, to the benefits, possibilities, as well as obstacles and possible problems that may occur in the process. After receiving all the necessary support related to her future job, Sonja traveled to Amsterdam to start what would become a wonderful experience. The activities developed involved promotion and cooperation with partners within the UNITED network as well as making reports, both narrative and financial for the activities that UNITED was organizing. Covering for her colleagues and supporting them in their work is something Sonja remembers with pleasure.
Discovering how an EU organization is dealing with EU marketing and funding was quite interesting; she made connections with many organizations on a European level and learned to take initiative in organizing events. But one of the most important impacts was the personal development: „I had time to do many things that I was never finding time to do before: cooking, cycling, running, enjoying a Sunday in a park.” Visiting open festivals, celebrations, matches that were held in the parks around Amsterdam was one of her favorite pastimes. After this experience, Sonja feels more European and is ready to think about a career in this field.
Zlata Bojadzieva – Kmetijsko gozdarski zavod Kranj, Slovenia (Sep-Dec 2013, 13 weeks)
Zlata spent three months in the Slovenian city Kranj, working at the Forestry Institute of Kranj. Her preparation period also included language lessons and orientation information related to life in Kranj. Zlata tried to connect with the Macedonian people in Kranj in order to smoothen her transition, but she also interacted with the locals, which helped her learn the language faster and feel more comfortable around her colleagues. Her activities included working on farm property, attending lectures, working in the milk factory, attending seminars and doing expert visits. „I was in regular contact with mentors in Slovenia and Macedonia about this activities”, says Zlata, being happy about making friends among her co-workers and mentors.
Zlata benefited from this experience in many ways. She gained more confidence, learned a new language and discovered what it means to work with professionals, and she also enjoyed travelling across cities and villages of Slovenia and putting to practice what she learned. The most exciting part was visiting the coastal side of Slovenia, remembers Zlata. She thinks that the skills she gained at the Forestry Institute will help her find a job in Macedonia because this field is similar in both countries. The life lessons she learned while being far away from home helped her expand her professional and cultural horizons in a very pleasant way.
Overall the project had positive outcomes for all the parties involved. The partner organizations improved their transnational capacities and directed their focus towards the candidate states for EU admission. CID managed to raise the visibility of the Lifelong Learning Programme and attract more applicants for further projects. For the participants, this experience meant gaining self-confidence, increasing their independence and even take into consideration the re-qualification. They gained managerial and communicational skills, they learned to adapt in a multicultural environment and deal with unexpected difficulties related to accommodation, transportation, communication and daily routine.
The follow-up activities involved meetings with the participants in order to check their learning outcomes. Upon returning, Alexandra and Sania found jobs in the youth work field in Skopje. “Now I am able to work as youth worker in Macedonia and I see that our development of youth work is not so good, so now I have a qualification that makes me unique on the labor market in Macedonia”, shares Alexandra. All in all, the ”EU-work experience to increase employability” project is a visible proof that work-based vocational training can be beneficial to enhance international exchange of expertise and improve the accession of young people on the labor market and, therefore, needs to be advertised and implemented on a larger scale.