Equal Opportunity for All - the Path to an Inclusive Labor Market

Twenty employers and 22 trainees, participants of the "Internships for young people with disabilities" program, which is implemented as part of the "Job Fit: Economic Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities" project funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and implemented by the Youth with Disabilities Forum, gathered today in order to exchange impressions and experiences gained within this program during the previous two months. Young people with disabilities had the opportunity to apply their knowledge and skills in the desired workplace, as well as to improve them under the mentorship of employers of leading companies in Serbia, who adapted and advertised their positions for people with disabilities.

The Forum highlighted the challenges faced by young people with disabilities when looking for work, accessing workplaces and developing professional skills, but also recognized and praised the efforts and support of companies that participate in initiating positive changes through this program of work practices.

"More and more employers are recognizing the potential and talents of people with disabilities living in this country. At the same time, they are taking steps to make their workspaces more inclusive and accessible. I want to thank those employers for their leadership and for showing that through the inclusion of people with disabilities in work teams, business can be made stronger! We hope that this internship program will become an effective model that other companies in Serbia will follow in order to provide adequate jobs for people with disabilities," said Brooke Isham, Mission Director of the US Agency for International Development (USAID).

Although a number of affirmative measures have been adopted to encourage the employment of persons with disabilities, there are still challenges and obstacles that hinder their successful inclusion in the labor market: unfavorable educational structure, lack of access to equal opportunities for educational training and internships, as well as lack of opportunities to acquire the necessary skills for certain jobs. Even when people with disabilities have the opportunity to learn and develop their professional competences, they often encounter a lack of opportunities for the practical application of those skills in a real work environment.

"Through this program, the chances of employment of young people with disabilities are improved, through practical experience and the acquisition of new knowledge and skills. At the same time, employers are given the opportunity to apply inclusive procedures in the process of recruitment and selection and make all the necessary individual adjustments to the workplace and work tasks," said Slađana Lević, Program Director of the Youth with Disabilities Forum, emphasizing the importance of comprehensive support for the employment of people with disabilities. which is provided as part of the project "Job Fit" through career guidance and counseling and the portal for employment of persons with disabilities zaposljavanje.fmi.rs.

According to the data of the National Employment Agency, close to 11 thousand people with disabilities are unemployed in Serbia. According to the report of the Youth with Disabilities Forum on the position of youth with disabilities on the labor market (2016), young people with disabilities most often work in jobs that are below their qualifications. Most of them work temporary, short-term jobs and therefore have less chance of permanent employment.

"My experience as an associate in the field of human resources for the fashion company "Mona" was extremely positive and very significant for my further career path. I believe that it will make my search for a permanent job easier, because internship is also a work experience, and every work experience is important when looking for a job, especially in the field of psychology for which I was trained," said Teodora Palinkaš, Intern at the HR Associate position in "Mona" fashion company.

The business sector plays a vital role in promoting equality in the implementation of diversity and inclusion policies by ensuring equal employment opportunities, creating an accessible work environment and engaging in corporate social responsibility initiatives.

"The motive for entering the work practice program came from the intention to make PepsiCo a more inclusive organization that nurtures diversity and actively fights against prejudices, stereotypes, lack of information and potential discrimination of certain social groups in our community," said Vilena Višnjić, Talents Acquisition Manager in the company PepsiCo, and pointed out that the training provided to them by the Youth with Disabilities Forum as part of the work practice program was very significant, practical, concrete and informative, bearing in mind that the company is participating in such a program for the first time. "The application of the acquired knowledge was seen in the fact that during the selection process and now the cooperation, adequate terminology and communication methods were used, and that what needed to be adapted in terms of the workplace, space and the position itself was examined with respect, so that both parties would benefit from it," added Vilena.

Today we recognized some of the good practices of empowering young people with disabilities within the program and awarded companies and employers who strive for truly inclusive business and embrace diversity as a strength.

The project "Job Fit: Economic Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities" is financed by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and implemented by the Youth with Disabilities Forum. Other partners of the project are Caritas Serbia, the Ana and Vlade Divac Foundation, Smart Collective and the Center for Independent Living of Persons with Disabilities of Serbia.


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