A better future for vulnerable youth in Albania

Young people received on-the-job training
Young people receive on-the-job training through a UNDP project. Photo: UNDP/Albania

Sidrit Dedja, 25, was born in Shkodra, Albania, with a significant motor disability. After he completed his primary education, his journey to self-discovery began.

“I spent my days at home, reading and watching TV programmes, especially ones related to science and computers.. I told myself: ‘One day I will learn to use these machines’ - and this became my purpose in life. I never let my disability bog me down, I just kept working hard towards that end.”

Highlights

  • Over 500 youth gained new skills through employment programmes
  • Three Regional Employment Boards were established in Kukes, Shkodra and Lezha
  • The project is funded by the Swiss Development Cooperation for a period of 2 years

On his 21st birthday, he woke up to find a brand new computer in his living room. It wasn’t long before Sidrit was formatting, programming, and making repairs.

Then he heard about an eight-week course offered by the regional employment office in collaboration with UNDP and the Albania Disability Rights Foundation, preparing people to enter the local labor market.

Determined to transform his life for the better, Sidrit participated in the training programme for people with disabilities and soon began working as a computer technician at a civil society organization in Shkoder.

“What I valued most is not only the possibility to do something useful but also to feel accepted by my friends and society at large. Disability should not be viewed as inability” he says.

According to the International Labor Organization (ILO), over 40 percent of Albania’s youth are unemployed. One of the challenges young people face when seeking gainful employment, is the lack of skills and education to respond to market needs. These challenges are compounded for youth with disabilities.

Since 2009, UNDP has been working towards addressing these challenges. The latest project, implemented in cooperation with the Ministry of Social Welfare and Youth, aims to improve youth employment opportunities in three selected regions with the highest rates of youth unemployment: Lezha, Kukes and Shkodra. The project works to enable local actors to identify and address youth employment challenges and to provide quality employment services to citizens.

“Employment promotion and skills development needs to be seen as closely linked to private sector needs and to local economic development challenges and opportunities. To this end, UNDP has introduced modalities to improve both private sector participation and the involvement of all relevant actors to address youth employment issues,” says Eno Ngjela, UNDP Programme Officer.

The project is actively targeting youth with disabilities and aims to encourage more than just income generation, but true and lasting social inclusion. Over 500 youth have received on-the-job training and have subsequently gained employment, and over 350 men and women have received training on entrepreneurship and business plan development.

The project is funded by the Swiss Development Cooperation for a period of 2 years and is helping vulnerable young people put their skills to good use and work towards a better life.

“Miracles happen, one must only believe in them,” says Sidrit.