Context: The School-to-Work-Transition Survey (SWTS) was conducted in two rounds (2012 and 2014) by the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the National Statistics Service of Armenia. The youth unemployment rate in Armenia in 2014 stood at 28.0 per cent and was substantially higher for young women (33.3 per cent) compared to young men (24.2). Furthermore, 31.1 per cent of Armenian youth were Not in Employment, Education or Training (NEET) in 2014. The share of NEET was nearly double for young women (38.5 per cent) compared to young men (21.7 per cent), which can be largely be explained by the greater number of young women outside the labour force who attend to family responsibilities.
The SWTS in Armenia showed a faster transition from school to stable employment for those with university education than for those with secondary education (11.1 months compared to 28.2 months, respectively). While for young women it was shown that the unemployment rate was lower for those with higher education, the opposite trend was observed among young men.
In 2014, almost three quarters (74.1 per cent) of young workers in Armenia were engaged in paid employment, while 11.2 per cent were own-account workers and 12.5 per cent were unpaid family workers. Regarding the skills mismatch, the SWTS found that 10.1 per cent of the employed youth were undereducated for their job, while 19.6 per cent were deemed overeducated. There were large differences between young working males and females with regard to the sector of employment. The services sector employed more young women than men (82.0 and 51.3 per cent, respectively); while for industry and agriculture the figures were 7.7 and 30.0, and 10.4 and 18.7, respectively.
Implementation of programme/ initiative: The programme “Right to Earn a Living” (REL) is an initiative of Bridge of Hope (BoH), an Armenian NGO that works on the protection of the rights of children and youth with disabilities for education, employment and a dignified life. In the area of employment, REL aims to increase the social and economic inclusion of youth with disabilities through enhancement of their livelihood opportunities. This goal is achieved through three major activities:
- Large-scale advocacy campaigns to raise awareness and promote the rights of youth with disabilities to vocational education and employment
- Capacity building and training: skills assessment and job coaching and matching
- Assistance to people with disabilities (financial and otherwise) through the establishment of “Platforms for Civic Synergy” and promoting sharing of information among stakeholders
Ultimately, REL aims to increase social and economic inclusion of youth with disabilities and strengthen their civil society organizations.
Since its inception in 2014, BoH has established networks of collaboration with local employment agencies, NGOs, and microfinance institutions. REL has been implemented in several parts of the country, including Yerevan as well as urban and rural communities in the northeast province of Tavush, one of Armenia’s poorest regions. REL’s operational budget for the period 2014-2016 amounted to €321,873.
BoH’s activities are funded by local and international organizations, inter alia: UNICEF, the Danish International Development Policy (DANIDA), the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (NORAD), and The Open Society Foundations. In addition, REL has received funding from Civil Society in Development (CISU, an association encompassing 280 NGOs in Denmark), and the Norwegian NGO Mission East. BoH has received national and international recognition for its work with persons with disabilities, including the Armenian Ministry of Education’s Gold Medal and UNESCO’s Emir Jaber al-Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah International 2014 Prize. More recently, REL received the Zero Project’s “2017 Award for Innovative Practice on Employment, Work and Vocational Education and Training” for people with disabilities by the Essl Foundation in Austria.
Main challenges: Despite significant achievements in promoting the rights of youth with disabilities in recent years, they still face segregated education and working environments. Many report a lack of appropriate infrastructure and other accessibility related issues in education settings.
Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) opportunities for youth with disabilities are underdeveloped in Armenia, with few TVET institutions adequately prepared to teach youth with disabilities skills demanded by the labour market. As a result, 86 per cent of working age youth with disabilities in the country do not have access to inclusive TVET. As a consequence, these youth are at risk of exclusion and a lifetime of unemployment and underemployment.
Even after graduating from TVET, the majority of youth with disabilities must overcome significant challenges to find a job due to:
- Physical barriers such as limited access to accessible transportation and working environments
- Scarcity of job opportunities suitable for youth with disabilities
- Reluctance and/or prejudice of employers to hire persons with disabilities, particularly given the abundant labour supply
- Lack of knowledge by youth with disabilities about their employment rights and legally stipulated entitlements.
The challenges that youth with disabilities face to access inclusive education and TVET, and secure a suitable job are greater outside the capital, particularly in rural communities.
Results achieved: Since 2014, REL has established eight centres in the capital that provide inclusive vocational education and training to youth with disabilities relevant to local labour market demands. In addition, REL has trained teachers in inclusive TVET and developed educational materials and curricula adapted to address the specific needs of youth with disabilities. Between 2014 and 2016, a total of 120 youth with disabilities were trained, half of whom secured jobs by the end of 2016, mostly in hair-dressing and beauty salons, sewing factories, food processing plants and transportation. As part of the project, 85 graduates furthered their training in income generation and business planning at the Tavush Business Support Centre.
Four of the eight Tavush centres received support to enhance their advocacy capacities to impact regional policies and practices linked with TVET and employment opportunities for youth with disabilities. Leaders in the community were trained in advocacy, which led to increased engagement between advocacy groups and local/national authorities, civil society at large and international organizations. Up to 25 meetings were organized with Tavush employers to advocate for the inclusion of youth with disabilities in the workplace.
Another significant achievement by REL is the introduction of two vocational courses (gardening and carpet manufacturing) at Yerevan State Humanitarian College. These courses trained 79 teachers and provided all the necessary equipment to the College.
Moving Forward: A fundamental part of BoH’s work relates to advocacy activities. In addition to continuing their campaigns to raise public awareness on the rights of youth with disabilities, BoH and other NGOs working with persons with disabilities plan to reinforce their engagement with government agencies on the need to pass legislation that promotes equal opportunities for life-long learning for persons with disabilities, including vocational and life-skill education. These NGOs also plan to extend their advocacy work to major donors (e.g., the World Bank, European Union and national government aid agencies) to ensure that the needs of persons with disabilities, particularly children and youth with disabilities, are considered in their cooperation projects.
As indicated previously, it is not feasible to have teachers trained in inclusive education and TVET in every community, particularly in rural areas. Instead, BoH/REL plans to establish regional support centres that offer inclusive education and training on a “drop-in basis” or on an “outreach basis” for people with disabilities that cannot travel to these centres.
Replicability: As part of its advocacy work, BoH is currently working to get REL’s model of advocacy adopted by Armenian government authorities in order to consolidate it and expand it across the country. Achieving this recognition will constitute a crucial first milestone to the replication of REL by other organizations in Armenia and/or elsewhere.
Vital to ensuring others are able to learn from the experience of BoH is proper dissemination. All 56 innovative practices awarded in 2017 by the Essl Foundation for their work on employment, and vocational education and training for people with disabilities were highlighted in Zero Project’s 2017 Report and website.
Background Information on Armenia’s school-to-work transition (2012 and 2014)
School-to-work transition Survey (SWTS) in Armenia, National Statistics Service of Armenia and International Labor Organization (ILO), published in 2016.
Bridge of Hope official links:
Official webpage: http://bridgeofhope.am/who-we-are/
Facebook webpage: https://www.facebook.com/bridgehope/
Twitter account: https://twitter.com/bridgeofhope
Bridge of Hope in Zero Project website for “Innovative Practice 2017 on Employment, Work and Vocational Education and Training”
This good practice was kindly prepared by Dr. Antonio Postigo
Date: April 18, 2017