This winter, I was at an employment center in Karaganda, Kazakhstan talking to people who were interested in starting their own businesses. I could still remember the excitement in their voices as they talked about their ideas.
There was a couple who, using micro loans from the government, started a roadside car maintenance and repair station, hoping to take advantage of the increasing traffic between Astana and Almaty. They told me that they wanted to understand the market better so they can run their business more efficiently. Self-employed and vulnerable to sudden shifts in the market or new technologies, they wanted to know how to improve productivity and grow their microenterprise.
I also met a CEO who started her firm out of her house- using a single sewing machine- and who now produces high-end uniforms and equipment for oil companies. She also developed a performance sportswear line that became the official gear for Kazakh teams at the Olympics and other international sporting events. Her firm now has 170 staff but she lamented about the mismatch between the skills that are needed for her company and what students are taught in education and training institutions. For her to move towards mass production and stay on top of innovations in clothing technology, a qualitative shift in her employees’ skills is needed.
What do these entrepreneurs have in common? First, they have the potential to change the development landscape of their country. While Kazakhstan aspires to join the rank of the top 30 most developed countries by 2050, it remains highly dependent on its natural resources. As such, diversifying the economy and increasing the productivity and earning capacity of people who are of working age, including these entrepreneurs and their employees, is a priority. What do these entrepreneurs need to become drivers of change? They need the skills and know-how to better manage and promote their businesses, understand and cater to their customers’ needs, master relevant technology, and create a competitive advantage. As their businesses grow, they need ready-to-work employees.
In partnership with the government, the World Bank developed a $137 million Skills and Jobs Project to improve employment outcomes and skills by providing relevant workforce training to the unemployed, self-employed, and employed. Specifically, the project will improve public employment services, enhance the capacity of training centers to provide skills development programs that are aligned with labor market needs, and establish a demand-driven skills enhancement training program. Through strong partnership with industry and employers, the project will also improve the relevance of technical and vocational education and training and higher education institutions. The latter complements Kazakhstan’s recent efforts to adopt a dual education model that focuses on providing students with practical experience through internships. Read more about the project here.
We’re hoping that the project will help people, such as the auto shop couple, who want relevant training to nudge them towards a viable firm model. The project will also support small and medium-size enterprise owners, like the clothing CEO, by helping transform the skill sets of the stock and flow of Kazakhstan’s labor force. It’s time to help Kazakh entrepreneurs take their dreams to the next level.
What kind of training is relevant to the working age population or, more specifically to entrepreneurs, in your country? Please share in the comment section below.
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