Supporting Russian Youth to Enter the Workforce
In the midst of a global youth unemployment crisis, young people in Russia are working to strengthen their job prospects upon graduation from college. What began as a small youth-led project has grown into a new way of doing things at Tambov State Technical University, and the start of successful careers for hundreds of youth in the region.
In a region 300 miles southeast of Moscow, more than 150 youth found jobs this year through the university's first ever Career Center. Several more of the 800 graduating students landed positions indirectly, through job referrals from their peers who participated in the innovative Career Center activities.
The Career Center started in 2011 as a project of 15 youth participating in the Youth Development Competencies Program (YDCP), a USAID-funded project designed by IREX and recently included in USAID’s highlights of global youth activities. The Center is now an institution at the university, helping to create the culture of career readiness and networking needed for youth to enter the workforce.
Basing their project off a Russian model they learned about through YDCP, youth organized a series of events designed to help students at the university build practical career skills, navigate the job market, and make career choices. Organizers toured local factories and surveyed employers to learn what qualities and skills would make youth more employable. They held master classes and trainings to prepare students for a job fair and worked with other youth to find job opportunities and strengthen skills that would help them get hired.
That Center is now a department of the university, with the full support of faculty and staff. According to advisor Mixail Zabavnikov, youth introduced the project at a critical time. The Ministry of Education and Science had recently added “the ability of students to procure employment after graduation” to the list of criteria determining the ranking of higher learning institutions, motivating universities to establish or improve their career services.
Alexander Voronin was one student who attended several trainings on interview techniques, resume writing, and general business etiquette. He then posted his revised resume on websites recommended by Career Center organizers. After interviews with several companies, he secured an offer from his current employer, crediting his success to the Career Center. “The trainings I attended widened my world view, and removed my fear of speaking with potential employers,” he said. “I was able to handle myself with confidence, and present my abilities in the most effective manner.”
Job fairs now occur twice a year at Tambov State, and trainings continue with the help of an adult advisor and student volunteers. Zabavnikov said that employers are willing to attend and make presentations at these events, as “they are sure they will be a good source of candidates.”
Even students who do not attend career fairs have learned of opportunities through their peers. Margarita Egorova is an example of this multiplier effect. Margarita’s peer Elena Milenina, an organizer of the Center, helped her secure a job at an advertising agency, through networking with agency representatives. “My current job is exactly what I was looking for, and I am very grateful to Elena and the Career Center,” Margarita said.
These stories from the youth complement broader conclusions found in an IREX-commissioned quasi-experimental evaluation of the program. You can learn more about those results here.
YDCP works by identifying successful, socially beneficial, youth-driven projects through a Russia-wide competition, facilitating the peer-to-peer replication of these activities in other regions of Russia. Read about other projects here.