“I started applying for jobs as soon as I completed my dentistry studies,” says 30-year old Arta Alija, “But I had no luck with any of the state clinics.”
A harsh lesson that many young people are learning in these difficult economic times is that educational qualifications, training and skills are not enough to guarantee employment after graduation. While the number of people enrolling at university and the number of people continuing their studies to postgraduate level has risen in recent years, the percentage of unemployed graduates has only increased, with over 20% of graduates unemployed in 2011.
A key aim of the Government and UNDP’s Self-Employment Programme is to encourage unemployed graduates and others to consider different ways of making use of their skills.
Arta worked for two years in private dentist’s practices in two villages near Tetovo. What she really wanted, however, was to open her own business. “I had the technical skills,” she says, “I just didn’t have the business knowledge or the funds to start up on my own.”
Arta’s friends and family knew about her ambitions and encouraged her to apply for the self-employment programme. “I’d seen an advertisement for the programme in the newspaper but I had to be persuaded—we aren’t used to running our own businesses so it always seems safer to work for someone else.”
“The grant was obviously a big incentive for applying,” says Arta, “Because there’s just no way I could find that backing otherwise. But that isn’t the full story—apart from the difficulty of raising funds it’s the fear of the large amount of paperwork involved that stops people taking the leap. Something I’d strongly encourage other candidates to do is to stop thinking of all the reasons not to try. Because whatever the risks they should realize that the results come fast—and so does the satisfaction.” As well as direct help in developing their business plans, the workshop provides participants with fundamental advice on marketing and strategy. For Arta, this proved a surprising benefit of the programme. “I hadn’t thought about marketing realistically before,” she says, “Now I realize my business depends on getting known.”
Arta now runs her own dental practice in Tetovo. “There’s a lot of local competition but I’m confident about the future because I’ve managed to attract regular patients and the clinic is getting a name in Tetovo. The grant made a big difference because dental equipment is very expensive, but the workshop and the help of the consultant made an even bigger difference.”
Already employing one nurse in her dental practice, Arta has plans to expand the clinic,buying her own x-ray machine and employing another dentist and nurse—again demonstrating the power of the self-employment programme to generate work not only for participants but for those they employ in turn.
Once a new business is up and running like Arta’s, the Programme offers further support by helping coordinate assistance to finance the recruitment of additional employees. And the Government and UNDP have just launched a website (www.samovrabotuvanje.mk), where for the first time, candidates wishing to apply for the self-employment programme can find all the information and help they need in one place. The portal also acts as a business-to-business platform, providing up-to-date information on all 5,000 businesses established through this programme and a map of their locations.