In FYR Macedonia, supporting entrepreneurs to build new lives

dentist works on patient
Arta now runs her own dental practice in Tetovo, FYR Macedonia. (Photo: UNDP in FYR Macedonia)

As soon as she completed her dentistry studies, Arta Alija applied for as many jobs as she could at state clinics. But the 30-year-old from Tetovo, Macedonia, had no luck.

Highlights

  • Since the Programme began in 2007, more than 6,000 people have found secure employment by creating their own companies or formalizing their existing business.
  • More than 73 percent of the entrepreneurs who have received training start-up equipment through the programme over the past five years have remained in business — well above the average global success rates for new companies.
  • As well as direct help in developing their business plans, the workshop provides participants with fundamental advice on marketing and strategy.
  • The Self-Employment Programme has attracted over 20,000 unemployed people, offering a short intensive course in basic business principles and close guidance from experts to help participants develop their business plans.

Although the number of people enrolling in undergraduate and graduate programs has risen in recent years, the percentage of unemployed graduates has also risen, with more than 20 percent of graduates in Macedonia unemployed in 2011.

This is the harsh reality that many young people face in the country at a time of economic instability, when educational qualifications, training and skills are not enough to guarantee employment after graduation.

Arta worked for two years in private dentistry practices in two villages near Tetovo. What she really wanted, however, was to open her own business.

"I had the technical skills," said Arta. "I just didn’t have the business knowledge or the funds to start up on my own."

Arta’s friends and family knew about her ambitions and encouraged her to apply for a self-employment programme run by UNDP and the Government of Macedonia. A key aim of the programme is to encourage unemployed graduates and others to consider different ways of making use of their skills.

"I’d seen an advertisement for the programme in the newspaper, but I had to be persuaded—we aren’t used to running our own businesses so it always seems safer to work for someone else," continued Arta.

As well as direct help in developing their business plans, the workshop provides participants with fundamental advice on marketing and strategy.

 "Something I’d strongly encourage other candidates to do is to stop thinking of all the reasons not to try,” Arta said. Because whatever the risks they should realize that the results come fast—and so does the satisfaction."

Arta now runs her own dental practice in Tetovo, already employing one nurse and planning for expansion. She will soon be able to purchase her own X-ray machine and employ another dentist and nurse.

"There’s a lot of local competition, but I’m confident about the future because I’ve managed to attract regular patients and the clinic is getting a name in Tetovo," she added. "The grant made a big difference because dental equipment is very expensive, but the workshop and the help of the consultant made an even bigger difference."

Once a new business like Arta’s is up and running, the employment programme offers further support by helping coordinate assistance to finance the recruitment of additional employees.

Since the programme began in 2007, more than 6,000 people have found secure employment by creating their own companies or formalizing their existing business.

The Government and UNDP just launched a website where candidates wishing to apply for the self-employment programme can find all the information they need in one place. The portal also acts as a business-to-business platform, providing up-to-date information on all the businesses established through this programme and a map of their locations.

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