The Western Balkan region is facing pressure stemming from a high level of youth unemployment that individual states are trying to alleviate by establishing various affirmative employment programs and strategies. While doing some research, I was recently exposed to some statistics which show that youth unemployment rate in the Western Balkans ranges from 55% in Kosovo to approximately 18% in Montenegro. Even though the rate is lowest in Montenegro, young people still experience many restrictive practices and obstacles to finding a job after graduation, especially in the public sector. Some policies have been introduced to help with that, but not all have been successful. Witnessing these policies myself, I will express my views in demonstrating the success and failure of these policies. A good example of these public policies is the National Traineeship Program for law graduates practiced in Montenegrin Courts. While a less successful example is the National Vocational Training Program. Based on my experience, this program in comparison does not provide a long-term perspective for graduates participating in it.
There are many reasons that make the National Traineeship Program a useful and sustainable policy. The new programme is very pragmatic because it provides necessary practical education to students wanting to develop professionally. It does so by giving the opportunity to work in this important branch of power that requires high expertise. This policy is different from previous practices followed in Montenegro and Serbia where it required students to volunteer without pay. I remember how many friends of mine who were among the best students, regardless of invaluable experience that working in courts would provide them with, were repelled from the idea of working in court because of the necessity to volunteer at first. Consequently, due to the new programme, my sister and many of her friends that are currently participating in it are witnessing benefits of working in this natural ambient for law graduates. This experience is providing them with the opportunity to broaden knowledge and gain training through cooperating with experienced judges, and expanding their network.
On the other hand, the programme of National Vocational Training Program, a program I personally participated in, is not as fair and practical. During the training, many graduates reconsidered and changed their own initial desire, while some liked it. The latter category is under great threat of being disappointed, as in many workplaces, especially the public sector, the chance to gain a permanent job is very low, regardless of academic, professional references one may have, or effort they made during the program. Of course, this ``microcosmos`` is painted in different colors for those who are, as in the famous novel Animal Farm written by George Orwell -``more equal than others". Nevertheless, we should have learned by now that efficient functioning of the public sector is driven by the same factors and criteria as the private sector, one of which for sure is educated and high-performing labor force. I believe that devising nonintellectual criteria for selection of those handling intellectual tasks is dangerous for any society. Although, the consequences are not immediately apparent, if the practice continues the results will be devastating for the country as a whole in the long-run.
To conclude, I want to point out one more aspect in this short elaboration, the role that university professors play in this matter. I believe it could be more pronounced, at least in the form of reference by which they would bridge best students with future employers. This shouldn’t be regarded only as help to the talented individual in question but as a contribution to the society as a whole. In other words, acting as mediators, professors would help in connecting efficiently the education sector to the job market. Thus, as students, our achievements during education should not be our one-way ticket to the USA or Western Europe, but the proof of our effort and dedication, showing our ability that employers in our own country should respect and award. Instead of competing who is the ``leader`` in the region based on titles we have been given by the EU, or ones we gave to ourselves, my country, as well as other countries from the region, should focus on making substantive and measurable long-term progress in the field I analyzed here.
Author: Bojana Lalatović
Bojana is passionate and has an inspiring knowledge in Politics and European Integration processes. Currently, she is working as a Trainee in the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Montenegro, Operational Communication Center in Podgorica. While previously she has worked in the NGO sector working in the area of EU integration and raising awareness for EU process and perspective for the Balkan region what is more she has also volunteered for the Red Cross Offices in Niksic.
She has finished her BA in Political Science from the University of Montenegro in Podgorica and holds a Master’s Degree of Law in European Integration from the University of Belgrade in Serbia.
Bojana has participated in the ERASMUS + mobility programme at the University Roma Tre, Rome in Italy. She speaks four languages, Montenegrin/Serbian, English, Russian and Italian.