Belgrade Open School brought together more than 150 decision-makers, representatives of Western Balkan governments, business sector, civil society organizations during the first day of the conference "Western Balkan Civil Society Organisations for Youth Employment Support", held on December 17, 2020.
The most important topics were related to the key challenges of public policies regarding youth employability in the Western Balkans, as well as the cooperation of civil society organizations and public administration. The conference "Western Balkan Civil Society Organisations for Youth Employment Support" is organized within the WEB4YES project implemented by BOS with six regional organizations from the Western Balkans. The project has improved the skills of more than 1,000 young people who were employed or started their own business.
The panelists of the first session were Lida Kita, representative of the European Training Foundation and expert on VET and social inclusion, Mirela Rajković, executive director of the South East European Youth Network, and Ivan Topalović, an expert for employability issues. The speakers emphasized the significance of youth participation in decision-making and policy-making, as well as the activities of youth organizations as youth representatives at the local, national, and regional levels.
Lida Kita pointed out that the public sector is increasingly recognizing the importance of the active role of youth. The competencies for active participation in the dialogue should be improved in the future, and initiatives such as WEB4YES are a good tool for youth involving. "Changes are happening very quickly and educational policies cannot change at that speed, but what we can do is create a more adaptable society," Mirela Rajković emphasized. Ivan Topalović highlighted the importance of local initiatives that represent the voice of youth from vulnerable groups and support their work. "It is very important to help young people organize into networks through which they will influence decision-makers," he pointed out.
The speakers of the second session were Aleksandra Đurović, research coordinator of the Belgrade Open School, Ajka Rovčanin, representative of the Institute for Youth Development KULT, Adem Gashi, representative of the Regional Cooperation Council, Cristina Mereuta, representative of the European Training Foundation and Valmir Xhemajli, representative of LENS.
Speakers highlighted the main recommendations for youth employment, but also the challenges that young people will face due to the coronavirus pandemic in the employment context. The panel also presented the WEB4JOBS platform, intended for youth from the Western Balkans to explore education opportunities, jobs, and exchanges.
Aleksandra Đurović talked about the importance of involving all stakeholders to improve the employability of youth. "Through our research, we have developed recommendations regarding the improvement of the legal framework for internships and other important topics related to youth employability." Ajka Rovčanin emphasized that the unemployment rate in Bosnia and Herzegovina has decreased and it is caused by a "brain drain" not by the employment of youth. Cristina Mereuta pointed out that the consequences of the coronavirus pandemic will later affect the economies of the Western Balkans and civil society organizations have a significant role in supporting youth when it comes to employment. Adem Gashi spoke about the importance of creating joint recommendations and innovative solutions for youth employment. He pointed out that "there is not only one but several solutions and the goal is to create solutions in cooperation with youth, not only for youth" and that there is the opportunity for conclusions and recommendations from the regional level to be applied in the development of national policies.
Within the WeB4YES initiative, four regional researches on youth employment and entrepreneurship were conducted over the last three years. Also, National Youth Employment Fora have been established and concrete recommendations have been created to improve youth employability in the Western Balkans. BOS and project partners supported 18 initiatives of youth organizations, and the capacities of over 90 organizations were improved through training.
Watch the first day of the conference:
WeB4YES Grantees - Employability in the Western Balkans
WeB4YES Grantees - Entrepreneurship in the Western Balkans