Labor Market Project
USAID assists young people in determining their career path
Photo: USAID Mission Director Michael Fritz opens the forum Internship and Careers 2006 in Sofia, 16 March 2006.DEVELOPMENT CHALLENGES Since 1998, with critical USAID assistance, Bulgaria has been implementing a modern three-pillar pension model. To sustain this model a significant private sector employment growth is needed and key bottlenecks in the labor market have to be addressed. One of the most pressing labor market issues today is the shortage of people with practical skills and experience relevant to the new economic realities in Bulgaria. The education and training institutions still fail to provide these skills and there are no incentives for companies to develop and train staff. To overcome these challenges, a concerted effort is required targeted towards improving the market orientation of the Universities and their ability to deliver the skills sought by employers, enhancing the dialogue between the academic institutions and the employers, and designing vocational training programs for key economic sectors.
USAID INVOLVEMENT The USAID Labor Market Project provides ongoing assistance in the labor market area in Bulgaria working at both national and regional level. The USAID capacity building program for the Ministry of Labor and Social Policy is focused on the active labor market programs implementation, monitoring and evaluation, analysis and economic modeling to inform decision-making on current and proposed labor and social policies. A key aspect of LMP has been to educate and raise the awareness of the public with respect to various labor market programs. Since mid 2004 the focal point of the project is bridging the gap between the demand and supply of skilled workforce in the market.
GOAL The objective of USAID’s Labor Market Project has been to identify and eliminate labor market constraints on new job creation, with the ultimate goal of attaining sustained employment growth, higher wages, and rising incomes in Bulgaria. The specific objectives of the project include:
• Improve the flexibility of the Labor Market needed for increased investment and growth in Bulgaria.
• Help the country improve the competitiveness of its labor force to better meet the EU labor market demands.
PROJECT DESCRIPTION The Labor Market Project is devoted to the implementation of three main programs at the regional level to help increase the flexibility and capacity of the Bulgarian labor market to respond to growing global competitive pressures on the supply of and demand for workforce skills. The project targets to improve: the capacity of universities and vocational schools to deliver the skills sought by employers, the availability of modern quality training and certification programs in important economic sectors, and the capacity of Bulgarian government institutions to deliver improved customer services to employers and the unemployed. LMP’s programs – the National Internship Program, the Training and Certification Program, and the Model Labor Offices Program have a distinct national focus.
Career centers at 24 Bulgarian universities work to ensure that students’ and employers’ expectations converge to their mutual benefit. (Photo: USAID)• National Internships Program. USAID works to strengthen the linkages between academia, secondary schools, and employers. The program establishes university career centers and builds capacity for career counseling at tertiary and secondary education applying internationally recognized training and certification programs. USAID organizes career and internship fairs in major cities to enable employers and students to explore career options in face to face interaction and also maintains an Internet platform linking university students looking for internships with employers looking for interns. The program created guidelines to successful internships and made them popular among universities and hundreds of employers through nationwide training and awareness initiatives.
• Training and Certification Program. Tourism and apparel are key sectors for Bulgaria’s economic development. USAID collaborates with industry associations, educational institutions and business support centers to design and implement short-term training programs. With emphasis on quality, trainings are tailored to the needs of business executives as chief trainers of their staff. USAID magnifies the impact of training initiatives by producing and disseminating training courses on CDs and DVDs.
• Model Labor Offices Program. USAID works to reverse accelerating regional unemployment by enhancing the capacity of the Employment Agency to provide value-added services to the public and improve its tools for online public education and communication of employment policies and initiatives. USAID introduces customer service standards in the public service and provides related training to management and technical staff. The standards aim to ensure uniformity in the conduct of agency employees when providing public service. The effort is expected to generate a positive effect on the local labor market as local employment offices become preferred employment agent enabling an environment supportive of employment growth.
SUCCESS STORY USAID will replicate the successful career counseling model for universities in Bulgaria and will build capacity for career counseling in secondary and vocational Schools. The USAID Labor Market Project and the National Pedagogical Center to the Ministry of Education and Science signed a MoU on 13 February to build a system for career counseling in secondary and vocational schools. The system will improve the employability skills of students and strengthen the currently weak links between employers and secondary and vocational schools. The Ministry of Education and Science expects that more than 3000 pedagogical advisors will need career facilitation training by the end of 2007.