A group of young people from Montenegro took part in the program for work activation and employment.
Sebastijan, Jovana, Biljana, and Tajson originate from different backgrounds and have different interests, education and experiences. However, they are connected by the fact that they are unemployed and wish to be more active in order to find a job.
With about 70 other young people from Montenegro, they applied for the program "Work activation of social protection beneficiaries" implemented by HELP in cooperation with the UNDP office in Podgorica. The program helps the unemployed activate and improve their capacities and skills to eventually find employment.
Sebastian Baftijari from Podgorica, who finished high school as a chemical laboratory technician, is one of the program participants. He says that he is not attracted to a job related to his education and would rather work in the Roma and Egyptian communities.
"I would like to continue working as a mediator – to serve as a mediator between children and parents and educational and other institutions in society. In order to do that, I need better communication skills. The reason I signed up for this program is to learn how to better work and communicate with people and be more successful in working with the community," Baftijari says.
Tajson Bonestaj would also like to find a job in the community in which he lives and, like Sebastijan – contribute to its development. Since he completed elementary school, he has been involved in manual labor jobs only.
"I came to understand that I wanted to help people who need help," says Tajson, who applied for the youth work activation program because he wants experts to help him build skills for working with young people.
Jovana Djokic, who earned a university degree in biology and volunteered as an eco-activist, also joined the activation program. During her student days, she worked various jobs abroad before returning to Montenegro and beginning her search for employment.
"Given that I studied abroad and traveled extensively, I did not make contacts here. Upon my return, I tried to activate myself, which is why I applied to participate in the project. I am of the opinion that this could be my way to expand my knowledge and skills", Jelena said.
She would like to use this program to connect with experts from various fields and improve her skills in the field of graphic design.
According to MONSTAT data, the unemployment rate of young people aged 15 to 29 years in Montenegro stood at around 22% in 2019. After the coronavirus pandemic, that percentage increased by 10%. According to the last year's data, the percentage of young people who are not in employment, education or training was about 26 percent, which is the highest percentage in the region, along with Albania and Northern Macedonia.
The problem of unemployment especially affects young women who do not have additional support and assistance when it comes to reconciling professional and private life obligations.
Biljana Sarcevic, one of the activation program participants, performed various jobs in the past – she worked in trade, taxi transport and hygiene maintenance jobs. Being a single mother of two, she says that her private obligations prevented her from getting a job.
"Now that my children are older, I decided to accept the invitation of the social services and apply for this program. I would like to work as a home care assistant for elderly people. I think of this program as a way to find that very job", Biljana says.
Participants in the program attended a two-day training in Podgorica, which, according to trainer Radoje Cerovic, has been designed to encourage participants to step out of their comfort zone and dare to take personal initiative. "We are working on managing emotions and personal communication because the limitations that hinder us are in us," Cerovic said.
After the training, participants will receive three-month-long support from mentors who are experts in the field of youth work, employment and social policy.
"The inability to find a job is not the only obstacle they face. Sometimes it is the lack of family support, child care, inequality in the labor market due to some of the differences, so they need additional empowerment in order to become competitive in the labor market", says Marija Stajovic, one of the mentors who work with project participants from Podgorica, Golubovci and Tuzi.
Mentors will help unemployed participants create personal work activation plans and regular registration with the Employment Agency. "Each activity will be tailor-made depending on the needs and problems that the beneficiary encounters and what they want. This may refer to providing training for business plan development and developing "soft skills" for those who already know a lot but need additional support to adequately present themselves," Stajovic says.
The project for work activation of social protection beneficiaries is being implemented in Podgorica, Tuzi, Golubovci, Niksic, Pluzine, Savnik, Bijelo Polje, Ulcinj, Bar, and Rozaje. This pilot project is being implemented as a result of cooperation between UNDP, Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare, Employment Agency and Centres for Social Welfare. As such, it is based on the human-centered design methodology, which analyzes the experiences and challenges of both beneficiaries and institutions active in the field of social protection and employment. Based on the results of this process, the pilot project focuses on a personalized approach to activation through soft skills training and intensive mentoring. The experience gained through this approach will be used to strengthen an integrated approach to work activation by the social protection and employment sector.
This project is part of a broader ACTIVATE! program implemented by UN agencies in Montenegro with the support of the United Nations Joint Fund for Sustainable Development, whose aim is to improve the system of social protection, labor activation and employment of young people.