Pirot:   ”A Step to Employment” Project aims to increase the employability of young people from the Roma community in Pirot and the surrounding area. A special focus of the Project was on young Roma women who either did not go to school at all or have finished primary school only. To help a group of 23 Roma women find employment, after the project ensued on-the-job training for four occupations– home carers for elderly, beauticians, pastry makers, and gardeners.

We talked about the importance of this programme for supporting the Roma women who belong to hard-to-place population of young people with Radmila Nešić, President of “Ternipe” Associaiton from Pirot which is conducting this programme funded by the Swiss Government through the “Education to Employment” Programme.

“We recognised the importance of the “Education to Employment” Programme and the opportunity it provides for working together with our beneficiaries, young Roma men and women. Since this is employment-related project, it is a priority for our organisation. This Project is of great importance for Roma population” Nešić said in the beginning of our interview.

Does your organisation have available data about the number of unemployed Roma registered with the NES office in Pirot?

Unfortunately, we do not have that data. And the precise data is hard to obtain since Roma who are registered as unemployed persons do not declare themselves with regard to their ethnic affiliation. So, we do not know the precise number of unemployed persons but most unemployed people in Pirot are Roma. However, this ”A Step to Employment” Project is a good thing. It enabled us to make a step further. We started to create a database about young Roma people under 35 years of age. Currently, our database concerns about one hundred young unemployed Roma who have finished primary and secondary school, or have university diploma. I would like to stress again that ”A Step to Employment” Project is our first step towards having proper records and being able to help increase the number of young Roma who got employment.

What is your goal?

Our strategic goal is to support young Roma population find a job. This database is very important for us, so that we can have data about Roma population, their educational structure, employment opportunities. The purpose of creating this database is to register and update data about young Roma men and women between 17 and 35 years of age, their education, qualifications, social status, competencies, and interest with regard to employment and further education. The database will be made available to the NES office, the Job Centre, employers, and all those who can provide for the employment of this population.

What is the educational structure of unemployed Roma in this town?

The population between 30 and 50 years of age who are capable to work have mostly finished primary or secondary schools. Young people increasing finish secondary schools, and a large number of them finish “Mladost”, a school for children with developmental impairment.  We do not have precise data about their educational level, qualifications, and in which job or training they are interested.

Is Pirot different from other towns and is this town an example of good practice with regard to the employment of Roma?

We always stress that, in many different areas, Pirot is an example of good practice for other towns. However, high unemployment rate in Roma population is shared by all towns. This is a topic and everybody is working on finding a solution. The advantage of Pirot is that here we have an increased interest of Roma for further education and that their educational structure has improved. This is where I see a difference between Roma in Pirot and in some other towns. The awareness is higher. We are happy to say that a dozen Roma from our town are now at the university. That is a huge progress in relation to the situation we had before.

How high is the interest in the community for such training programmes? 

The Project envisaged training for 20 Roma women. However, due to the high interest, we have provided training opportunity for further three Roma women. Thus, there are 23 Roma women in total. They first went to info sessions to obtain some fundamental information about the Project. A little over fifty women attended these sessions, and 23 of them were selected.  We have five women undergoing the training for pastry makers in ”Rafaelo” pastry shop, seven women who are interested in developing public spaces are attending the training in Zelenilo division of PUC ”Komunalac”. Six women who wanted to become beauticians attend the training in ”Luminica” beauty shop, and five women interested in the job of a home carer for elderly attend the training in the City Organisation of Red Cross. We expect that, after they complete the training, some of the trainees will be able to find employment or start own business. The goal is to empower them to start a business. Many of them married early and now is the time for them to start working and show, through their own example, to their children that it pays off to be persistent and study hard. The towns needs home carers for elderly and workers for Zelenilo division of ”Komunalac” . However, since we have employment freeze in place for public sector, these workers can be engaged only through so-called public works.

What are your expectations form the “Education to Employment” Project? Will Roma women be able to find employment in town companies after they finish training?

I talked with all mentors in these companies in which training takes place and I have heard only nice things about the trainees. For instance, the mentor from ”Luminica” beauty shop said that all women are well-prepared and can provide all beautician’s services without supervision. They can also get together and open a beauty shop. In ”Rafaelo” pastry shop too, they say that the trainees have adopted the pastry making skills and are able to do that job. There is a possibility that some of them stay here to work, and we have also one initiative that a trainee opens her own pasty shop in the Roma settlement. Our ”Ternipe” Association will help. PUC ”Komunalac” needs gardeners. Mentors are very satisfied with how the trainees were doing. They went through the entire training process and, together with Zelenilo employees, they are working in the town parks.  I hope that they will find employment. The “Education to Employment” Project is a huge opportunity for them.

“Education to Employment” – Pirot:

In Pirot, Education to Employment“ programme supported the implementation of two on-the-job training projects for 98 unemployed people, younger than 30, for scarce professions – graphic technician and process operator mechanical, as well as for so-called less-employable groups – young Roma women.

Through the training programme for graphic technicians and process operators mechanical, 18 people were trained in D Company, Sin-kom, and Alatnica “Krstić” companies, and CHF 66,000 were provided for the programme.

Separate funds were allocated for enhancing the employability of young Roma women, who are categorised as hard-to-place group. Eighty women without any education or with primary school only underwent the training with the support of “Ternipe” Association, “Luminica” beauty shop, and “Komunalac” Company. The amount of CHF 39,000 was invested in this Project.

Funds for the implementation of these on-the-job training projects and support to faster employment of hard-to-place youth groups were provided from a graph of the Swiss Government. ZIP Centre and “Osveženje” Citizens’ Association are local partners of the “Education to Employment” programme in Pirot.

 “Education to Employment” – Srbija:

In the course of the first round of on-the-job training, approximately 350 young people went through 22 on-the-job training projects, and further 350 unemployed persons, younger than 30 and belonging to hard-to-place youth groups – women victims of domestic violence, youth without parental care, youth from rural areas, wards of correctional homes, youth with developmental impairments, and Roma.

In the first cycle of the “Opportunity” fund, the Government of Switzerland allocated approximately CHF 450,000 for the implementation of 22 on-the-job training projects, for the same number of vocations which local businessmen in five pilot communities (Kragujevac, Kruševac, Knjaževac, Novi Pazar, and Pirot) defined as scarce.

Further CHF 194,000 were allocated for six programmes supporting employment of hard-to-place youth groups, and further CHF 155,000 were allocated for the implementation of the projects that test innovative employment models in Serbia.

Testing of new employment methods takes place under the supervision of the Government of the Republic of Serbia’s Team for Social Inclusion and Poverty Reduction, in eight local communities – Belgrade, Novi Sad, Kragujevac, Rača, Pirot, Paraćin, Užice, and Sombor.