The easiest path to the first job – young people invited the business community to provide them with internships and entrepreneurial knowledge

On the last day of the Kopaonik Business Forum, at the panel “What does the youth expect from business”, representatives of the young generation pointed out the challenges their peers are facing, while members of the business community presented the role

10 March 2022
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UNICEF Srbija / 2022 / Milovanovic

Kopaonik, 9 March 2022 - Young people in Serbia are facing numerous challenges when entering the labour market, and the biggest one is getting a job. This is largely due to the lack of work experience compared to adult unemployed persons, and this is exactly what makes them unprepared for facing the challenges of the modern labour market – this, among other things, was shown in the results of the study presented by UNICEF at the panel “What does the youth expect from business” at the 29th Kopaonik Business Forum. 

The study, which surveyed 1,033 young people aged 15-25 (36% aged 15-19 and 22% aged 20-25), pointed out that only 5% of them believe that companies in Serbia are taking sufficient care of children and young people, and 85 percent have high expectations from the business sector to support them on their future development path, by providing internships, mentoring and volunteering opportunities, as well as other opportunities to gain work experience.

The panel, where for the first time at the Forum young people had the opportunity to share their views about the world and expectations from the business sector through a discussion with the business community, gathered Milica Otović, Kai Vainomaa and Nikola Samardžić, representatives of UNICEF's Youth Board, Miloš Đuričanin, Strategic Director at the Nordeus Foundation, Dragan Filipović, Chairman of the Board of Generali Insurance, and Marko Mitrović, UNICEF analyst. Branko Milutinović, CEO of Nordeus, also joined the panel via the internet.

“It is very important for young people to meet the business sector while they are still in school, when, in addition to gaining some practical knowledge, we can better prepare for various business challenges”, said Milica Otović, a first-year student at the Faculty of Security in Belgrade.

The Serbian labour market analysis shows that young people are in an unfavourable position, since the unemployment rate of this part of the population is almost twice the general unemployment rate. The unemployment rate of young people aged 15 to 24 in Q3 of 2021 was 23.1 percent. Young people in Serbia are thus facing worse chances in the labour market compared to their peers in the European Union, where the youth unemployment rate in 2021 stood at 16.2 percent, with 17.6 percent of young people in the NEET category.

The biggest problem with youth employability is that employers require work experience and practical skills. First, young people cannot gain work experience on their own; second, education, in general, does not envisage internships. On the other hand, employers need prepared and motivated employees who can quickly adapt to job requirements.

Companies in Serbia point to a lack of skilled labour, and their dissatisfaction comes mainly from the lack of necessary practical competencies among secondary school graduates.

The first step that young people face is the choice of their future career path, which usually comes into play when choosing which faculty to attend. However, having in mind that some young people do not opt for tertiary education, they reach this step much earlier. Education is too “traditional” in vocational schools and gymnasiums, there is not enough project learning, innovative courses, trainings, internships and volunteering opportunities. Such community-based programmes would allow young people to acquire additional skills necessary in their process of development and transition to employment.

“It is especially important for companies to open their doors to young people and provide paid internships, mentoring, volunteering. I am sure that this would help more young people to find jobs and companies to get employees who are better prepared and more productive”, said Kai Vainomaa, a gymnasium student.

Starting a business is one of the solutions that a certain percentage of young people leans towards, but the share of those who actually start their own business is significantly smaller. In addition to the lack of experience and risk that is inevitable in entrepreneurship, young people are largely discouraged by the business environment that does not provide any support (insufficient start-up capital and financial sustainability of the business, lack of institutional protection, lack of information, lack of adequate courses and training that come before starting a business and are crucial for running it).

A large number of companies started by young people close already during their first year, so in addition to financial support, beginners in business find mentoring support from a business perspective, training on finances, bookkeeping, negotiation, management and complete career counselling much more important, but they don't exist.

“Although subjects related to entrepreneurship are taught in some schools, it is all at the theoretic level. It would have been useful for us to have had the opportunity to learn these skills in practice in school by having the chance to visit entrepreneurs, or for them to tell us practical things that we have to solve on daily basis”, said Nikola Samardžić who started his own private business at the age of 20.

The Director of Generali Insurance, the leader in the insurance industry in Serbia, points out that they invest in the training of new employees and also offer internships for young people just starting their careers.

Dragan Filipović, Chairman of the Board of Generali Insurance Serbia, pointed out that University knowledge is important, that knowledge is the strongest weapon at our disposal. “Through internship programmes in various companies, young people today have the opportunity to see and feel in practice everything they learned about. The average age of employees at Generali is 42, and out of the 1,700 employees, 24 percent are people under 35 and more than 50 percent are Millennials. While generational affiliation should not play a big role in how we feel and identify, we cannot dismiss the fact that global events, technological advances and social developments affect our personal experiences and shape our attitudes as adults. Understanding these nuances helps us to communicate and connect with people from different generations”, said Mr Filipović, adding that there is no future without young people’s participation in business.

The Nordeus Foundation was founded last year and it has tackled precisely the challenge of young people regarding the lack of skills and knowledge needed to succeed in the modern economy. With partner organizations, it seeks to put children at the centre of the educational process that helps them discover their interests and opportunities earlier, so they can achieve their full potential and stay and create in our country.

Miloš Đuričanin, Strategic Director of the Nordeus Foundation, pointed out that the education and future of children in Serbia is not only the responsibility of schools but of all of us in this society:

“At the Forum, we felt great and sincere support from the people working in our companies to become a partner in education and to help young people be better prepared for life and work after leaving school. We have joined forces with organizations that are already working to support young people and education. In addition to UNICEF, there is also the Digital Serbia Initiative, the Centre for the Promotion of Science, Junior Achievement, and other organizations, which allows us to immediately be in touch with more than two out of three secondary schools in Serbia. It is up to us to be the catalyst for change at both the national and local levels and to connect knowledge. All organizations and institutions that want to join us in this initiative are welcome, and they can find the information on how to do it at the website of the Nordeus Foundation”, said Miloš Đuričanin.

The Nordeus Foundation vigorously supports the development of creativity and innovation in schools, focusing on the quality of learning and the use of digital technologies, support in the interdisciplinary approach to education that puts children at the centre of the educational process, and Branko Milutinović, CEO of Nordeus, says that the story of Nordeus and the Nordeus Foundation has just begun:

We have a chance to use this moment when knowledge is changing the world. We live in times when knowledge and the ability of the population to create value with knowledge have an unprecedented impact on economic prosperity. Historically, the countries that have invested the most in knowledge and innovation have drastically changed their position in the world, along with the quality of life and opportunities they provide to their citizens. The only thing that matters today is what you know and the value you can create, and in the decades to come, that will become either even more brutal or an even greater opportunity. Fortunately, Serbia is in the position to convert this quite successfully if we are smart”, assessed Mr Milutinović at the Kopaonik Business Forum.

To support the efforts of institutions in Serbia, UNICEF in Serbia will make internships available. The Promoting Youth Employability Programme will provide employers with the chance to hire and provide opportunities to young people from particularly vulnerable categories, in accordance with employers’ needs. The programme started on 1 November 2021 and will last until the end of 2022. The plan is to connect at least 2,000 young people and 500 employers through trainings and paid internships. Interested young people and employers can apply and participate in this programme through the application platform I Choose Success – the Promoting Youth Employability Programme

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