Local Business Gives Light and First Jobs

In Maladziečna district of Belarus, ENEF lighting company and an education facility teamed up to employ people with no work experience, like youth and people with disabilities.

January 19, 2023

ENEF is an open joint-stock company with more than 30 years of experience on lighting products market.

Photo: Yana Bondar/UNDP in Belarus

The company creates and designs innovative, energy-efficient lighting. ENEF's product line includes transport lighting, which is used in local municipal buses and trolleybuses, as well as on high-speed electric trains that cruise around Belarus and abroad. During the COVID-19 pandemic ENEF launched the production of UV lamps for air disinfection. Convectors are widely used to maintain indoor comfort: ENEF manufactures components of a convector that help regulate temperature and manage automatic on/off mode.

Apart from high-tech products, ENEF is also well-known for its corporate social responsibility. For many years the company has employed people with disabilities and has supported the Kamerton club, which unites Maladziečna families with children with speech and hearing impairments.

Socially important corporate business initiatives help create jobs for vulnerable groups; promote social integration and social justice; improve quality of live in local communities and foster labour markets. By supporting socially oriented businesses, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the partners help implement important national social programmes, such as "Social Protection” for 2021-2025 and "Labour Market and Employment Promotion for 2021-2025.”

With a good experience and a solid programme in corporate social responsibility, the ENEF company decided to come forward with a new initiative “First Job” and expand the support to the local vulnerable groups.

It took almost three years for the initiative to go all the way from idea to implementation. According to the ENEF Director Natalia Golota, the most challenging part was to give the idea a shape and prepare a concept for the contest of initiatives announced by UNDP and the Ministry of Economy with financial support from the European Union. The ENEF team had many suggestions on how to support people with disabilities in the district. For instance, one idea was to install additional lighting for crosswalks to improve comfort and safety of the local road infrastructure. At the end of the day, the staff agreed that the initiative should focus on helping vulnerable groups, such as youth and people with disabilities, to get first job.

"The First Job" was among the winners of the contest of local initiatives, organized by the "Support to Economic Development at the Local Level in the Republic of Belarus” project.  

Natalia Golota, ENEF Director, participant of the First Job initiative.

Photo: Yana Bondar/UNDP in Belarus

"We employ people with hearing impairments and today there are 15 such people work in the company," says Natalya Golota. "I have always tried to focus not only on our production and financial growths but also on the social responsibility side of our work. Unfortunately, it is not always easy for a person with disability to enter formal labour market."

“We have a worker with hearing and speech impairments who has strong motivation to grow professionally and master his skills,” says Natalia. “We also employed two women with disabilities as a part of our The First Job initiative.”

The company also works with young people. Recently. ENEF handed over to the local polytechnic college a modern automated surface mount machine, so the students who study there can get practical experience in operating such a machinery.

“We could have sold this machine, but instead we chose to think big. Now young people can learn to use modern equipment from the outset. We are even willing to pay the students to produce some simple products,” explains Natalia. “We want young people to have a motivation to work in their specialty and a desire to grow and develop in the future. "Every year, we hire ten young people, and when they come, I want them to be experienced. This will benefit the company’s economy by help reducing costs of professional training."

 A man sitting at a table

Andrei Levko, the Head of “The First Job” initiative.

Photo: Tatiana Kuznetsova/UNDP in Belarus

Andrei is convinced that the partnership between manufacturing company and educational institution will have a positive economic effect for everyone. It is also important that this cooperation ignites the discussion of important local social issues.

"We mainstreamed the issue of hiring recent graduates and people with disabilities in Maladziečna, showing to other businesses in the district substantive social and economic benefits of this approach, if work more systematically in this area," says Andrei. "At the joint round table, we presented our research concerning the barriers and difficulties that the above target groups face when they take up their first employment and analyzed the national legislation. As a result, we developed recommendations for adaptation of new employees.

The partnership between ENEF and the college is a model for other businesses in Belarus to embrace.

Photo: Yana Bondar/UNDP in Belarus

Andrei stressed the significance and necessity of addressing stereotypes that exist on the job market and treating each unique situation on an individual basis.

Generally speaking, “The First Job” initiative is a pilot that demonstrates how such interaction may help find solutions to local employment issues and circumvent challenges associated with hiring young graduates and people with disabilities.

The project "Support to Economic Development at the Local Level in the Republic of Belarus” assisted 40 socially important initiatives in 12 districts of the Republic of Belarus.