UNICEF and the US Embassy in the Czech Republic announce new initiative to support young refugees with employment that empowers

The Cesty Initiative aims to ensure all vulnerable refugee youth are on a path of continued skills building, with a goal of reaching 1,500 youth in the first year

03 November 2023
Cesty Initiative

PRAGUE, 3 November 2023 – UNICEF, the US Embassy in the Czech Republic and government partners announced an initiative to connect young refugees with jobs that enable their continued skills development through access to professional development opportunities.  

More than 70,000 young people between 15- and 24-years old live with Temporary Protection status in the Czech Republic. UNICEF conducted extensive consultations with young refugees across the country to identify the barriers they face in accessing training opportunities and professional employment. Many cited language, lack of support and the need to take on low-paid informal work to cover basic needs. 

The Cesty Initiative incentivizes and supports companies to hire young refugees and, as part of their professional development, facilitate access to language classes, accredited training opportunities and professional mentorship offered by civil society, government institutes and schools. The initiative aims to connect 1,500 youth with such opportunities in the next year.

“Refugee youth face a trade-off between the short-term need to cover their basic needs and sometimes support others, and the long-term desire to pursue their professional development aspirations. Working with the government, private sector, civil society and young people, we aim to create multiple pathways for youth to continue developing their skills, learn the language and realize their full potential to meaningfully contribute to Czech society and recovery of Ukraine,” said Yulia Oleinik, head of UNICEF Refugee Response Office in the Czech Republic.

The Cesty Initiative was introduced at an event convened by the US Ambassador in Prague, attended by Ambassadors, government, private sector, civil society and young people. Through the initiative, IKEA is the first company to pledge support within their workforce development programme and the introduction of an internship programme.

U.S. Ambassador Bijan Sabet noted the need to support millions of displaced Ukrainians in and outside the country: “This fact puts pressure on the international community to come up with more sustained and innovative solutions to support those who have been forcibly displaced.  I’ve had the opportunity to meet some of these inspiring young people. What struck me is their incredible resilience and determination to continue to strive for their dreams. Together, we can help them, through support for UNICEF’s Cesty Initiative. This program will help both the Czech Republic and Ukraine, as the participants will develop and use skills here that they can later take home as they help to rebuild Ukraine’s cities, services, businesses, arts, and more.”

The Cesty initiative will benefit economies of Czech Republic and Ukraine, providing training, experience, and salaries to young refugees, expanding the workforce in the Czech Republic, and preparing youth from Ukraine to rebuild the post conflict economy of Ukraine.

“I very much appreciate the initiative aimed at young Ukrainian men and women forced by the war to leave their country. For young refugees, it is important to continue learning and building skills for future employment. The Czech economy, which has been experiencing labour shortage, can benefit from this initiative. Young people with experience of working and education in the EU will also play a key role in the post war reconstruction of Ukraine.” said Marian Jurečka, Minister of Labour and Social Affairs.

Media contacts

Veronika Janouchova
Communication Specialist
UNICEF Refugee Response in the Czech Republic


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