Lifelong employability instead of lifelong jobs

By: M.Sc. Ajka Rovčanin, Institute for Youth Development KULT 

The fact that lifelong employment replaced lifelong jobs doesn’t raise eyebrows anymore, it’s a fact no one can deny, brought on by globalization, modern economic trends, technological progress, etc. Many young people understand and accept this, and they act accordingly. Problems arise with older generations, who were let go after 20 years of working for the same company and are having trouble finding their place on the labour market because they weren’t ready or didn’t have the option of further education, whether formal or non-formal.

What does lifelong employability mean? How do we become and remain employable throughout our working lives? We do it by constantly investing on our career development and learning new business skills, which help us navigate the road to new employment if we leave or lose our job. Therefore, employability can be described as work flexibility and mobility. New employment can be in the same or different sector.

Employability skills include communication skills, team work, foreign languages, computer skills, adaptability and flexibility, problem solving skills, work ethic, working under pressure, planning and organizational skills and entrepreneurial skills. Youth can learn these skills mostly through non-formal learning, in NGOs and commercial businesses who provide this type of service. For instance, youth are not taught entrepreneurial skills in schools because there are no subjects focusing on this matter, except in some high schools focused on economy and faculties of economy. It takes more to make an entrepreneur than explaining all the stages of registering a business and telling them their VAT is due by the 10th day of every month.

Some youth, who accepted that the process of learning and professional training does not end once they have successfully completed a certain level of education, continue building their capacities regardless of their employment status. They do this in BiH. However, a growing number of youth have been looking for employment and employability on foreign labour markets. Why is that so? Why do young people prefer to invest time and money in their education in Germany instead of in BiH? Why do they prefer paying off housing loans in Germany? Why do the prefer working 10+ hours in Germany instead of 8 in Bosnia? Some say salaries in Germany are better and you can have a more comfortable life. Some say you have to take several jobs to make that happen and that life in Germany costs a lot more.

Do young people put their plans on paper and consider all the details before leaving, or are they just following trends? There is very little, hardly any, thorough research into this matter. A survey conducted by the Institute for Youth Development KULT among young respondents who live in BiH and are thinking of leaving and have already taken steps to do so or young people who have already emigrated, shows that unemployment is 6th on the list of reasons for leaving. It fell behind losing faith in personal progress and progress of the country, dissatisfaction with the political situation, corruption, the state of the education system and oversaturation with religious, nationality and war-related topics.

It’s hard to say whether youth are employable in BiH. In any case, generalizations are unhelpful. On the one hand, there are many job ads on commercial web portals and ads posted by employment bureaus and services. Walking down the streets, you can see “worker needed” ads posted on the windows of restaurants, cafes, hair salons and clothes stores. Employers complain that they can’t find adequate workers among their applicants, even if they meet the formal criteria such as specific university degrees. On the other hand, young people say that there are no jobs in BiH, so they find it elsewhere, some in their own profession, some not. This begs the question of whether the problem is youth’s inadequate employability skills or not enough jobs on the labour market in BiH? Both are probably true to an extent. How can we tackle this challenge now and in the future? How do we improve the lifelong employability of youth in BiH, not abroad? By focusing on employability that results in actual employment, rather than being an end in itself.

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