Keeping the family together

“It’s not right to say there’s no work in this country when people have so much potential they don’t realize,” says Qerim Dauti, “We should be trying to create jobs here—finding ways to use the skills we already have, not leaving our homes to find work abroad.”

Qerim can speak from personal experience— like so many of the country’s citizens he once left his life here behind to find work a long way from home. For twelve years, he lived in Australia working in the construction industry.

But despite successfully applying for Australian citizenship, Qerim eventually returned to his roots. “Starting over again isn’t easy,” he admits, “When I first came back I had to make a living as a taxi driver. I’d gained a lot of skills in carpentry in Australia but I didn’t have the confidence and knowledge to make the most of them so I just worked on the side doing jobs for people informally—but that was no kind of stability.”

“Helping people make the most of their skills is what the Self-Employment Programme is all about,” says Goran Jovanovski, Head of Sector for Active Labor Market Measures in the National Agency for Employment, “If we can achieve that aim we’ll not only reduce unemployment but also help stem the flow of human resources out of the country.”

A recent survey found that approximately 42% of young people aged between 19 and 27 say they would probably leave the country to seek employment abroad, while no less than 30% say they would probably leave the country for good.

At sixty years old with four children, there is nothing Qerim wants more than to keep his family together. “I don’t want my grandchildren emigrating for work like me", he says, "And I'm going to do all I can to make sure they have opportunities here. That's why I applied. A friend of mine happened to mention the self-employment programme and it sounded like a way to make my carpentry work more regular, more stable. What I was looking for especially was help with planning. But the workshop gave me something even more important as well—it built up my belief in what I can achieve.”

At the workshop the trainees are guided by a team of expert trainers through the process of developing their ideas into business plans.

Risto Ivanov, a trainee team leader, explains: “Our goal at the workshop is to advise each trainee on how to present their business idea and to submit it in writing for assessment. We try to transfer our experience and know-how by taking the participants step by step through the process of developing and upgrading their selected business ideas. And we give them specific exercises to help them define the key issues associated with doing business. These are methods we’ve tailored specifically to the needs of the unemployed.”

Thanks to Qerim’s hard work and determination, together with the business training he received through the Self Employment Programme, the prospects for himself and his family are getting better and better: since finishing the course, Qerim has formalised his carpentry work into a family business. Both his son and his daughter-inlaw are now working with him and they expect to recruit another two employees very soon.

In his newly refurbished office, equipped with help from the self-employment grant, Qerim works on the design of new products with his son who is also a professional carpenter.

“I used to sell my products only locally,” he explains, “But through the workshop I learnt how to plan sales and extend into new markets. Now we’re selling in Ohrid and Bitola and even exporting to Tirana and Switzerland. What we need to do now is to increase sales by exporting to the EU. And if everything goes to plan it won’t be long before I can employ my own grandchildren in the business.”

The Self-Employment Programme is developed and implemented by the Government and UNDP.