Filed under: Development Social inclusion

A group of young girls, seated, listening intently

In Tirana

Albania is a country with a young population – the average age is 31 years old. So the public policy discussion on youth employment has increasingly captured the spotlight during the past few years – especially in view of the global economic crisis.

This makes for fertile ground for Albania’s “Future We Want” consultations that started in January.

We had discussions with high school students in the capital, Tirana, and small towns including Librazhd and Lezha as well as with recent graduates from Elbasan and touristic Vlora.

I must say we have been positively surprised by the quality of discussions and how eager young people are to express their views, and outline their positive vision for their future.

For a country where the freedom of speech often came with the price of imprisonment, it is amazing to see how generations have changed after two decades. Free in spirit, they are not shy to communicate their views and engage in debates. They’re ambitious, full of civic awareness and morally well equipped.

Two young men seated at a table during consultations

In Vlora

They have also pointed out some of the key challenges and barriers currently affecting their dreams, including:

  • The need to be better informed about their prospects for education, and how a university education will enhance their employability and access to the labour market
  • The need for a high quality university system, and insufficient knowledge about vocational training opportunities
  • A clash of generations during the modern digital revolution
  • A more proactive role that public authorities must play
  • Weak local institutions – especially employment offices to provide updated and useful job opportunities; a mismatch between the labour market and the vocational education sector; political interference, corruption; lack of capacities in the services sector and limited support to entrepreneurship
  • Youth apathy, lack of opportunities and missing investments as real impediments for their development
  • A mentality that isn’t conducive to volunteering, although they appreciate and embrace the concept
Teens seated along the wall of a classroom, looking alert

Olsi Beci High School

But they do have their dreams! In Librazhd, a young woman said she wants to become the town’s mayor so she can help change the town so people’s dreams can come true. Another aspiring doctor hoped for a future where he would go and help other countries in need.

In Tirana and Elbasan, young people were more demanding – they need school subjects on labour market orientation; they want institutionalized internship programmes as part of their curricula; and they expect better information from public universities about degree programmes and debate about pros and cons of studying abroad. (See: Jobs for young Albanians)

One thing that we find striking though is the over-reliance of young people on public sector jobs.

They perceive that the public sector offers job security, as opposed to a lack of decent work in the private sector due to its mostly family and network character.

What is interesting to note is how discouraged they seem to be from engaging in entrepreneurial activities. Little use is being made of social media for entrepreneurship purposes, innovation and the technological capabilities of our era.

They admit they need to be better informed about market opportunities, investment and financing possibilities. They expect education institutions and policy makers to be more proactive, injecting more information and incentives to make the market more approachable and a viable opportunity for building their future.

The consultation tour continues in partnership with the Albanian Youth Council. Five more meetings are planned during the month of February, while our work continues to identify participants for an upcoming citizen’s panel.

You can follow the tour on Facebook and Twitter.

So far, around 200 young people have been consulted in person, and we estimate that by the end of the month, we’ll have reached around 400 young people, documenting their views on video – to be shared with the citizen panel, and freely available to everyone online.