In Turkey, Training to Help Refugees Find Jobs

INTERVIEW The VET4JOB program, funded by the EU Facility for Refugees in Turkey, promotes access to declared labor and sustainable livelihoods for Syrians and Turks. VET4JOB helps them to strengthen their skills through apprenticeship and vocational training focused on the needs of the labor market.

Team Leader of VET4JOB

What are the issues about Vocational Education Training (VET) in Turkey, especially regarding the refugee crisis?

As of February 2023, Turkey was hosting more than 3 million refugees. Among them, there are 600,000 young Syrians, aged 15 to 24: they make up 19% of the total Syrian refugee population. Our country is making great efforts to integrate this population, yet a big proportion of adult refugees don’t work. What’s more, a large number of young refugees are out of the education system, because they come from low-income families and have to work from a young age to support their household. The language barrier adds to their problem too. This is why we introduced VET4JOB.

Istanbul, June 2022. At the second Student Apprenticeship Forum, four students shared their proposals for improving learning in Turkey.

Can you tell us more about how this program works?

We’re promoting quality apprenticeship training and vocational courses linked with labour market needs so that the host community and the refugees have sustainable employment prospects. VET4JOB is an important opportunity for youth to acquire not only technical knowledge but also behavioural patterns that will facilitate their employability.

In collaboration with Ministry of National Education and Turkey Tradesman and Craftsman Confederation, we operate in 12 provinces with 36 partner vocational training institutions. Apprenticeship training is widely recognized both in our country and worldwide, as an education model which prepares the youth for employment in the fastest and most guaranteed way. The employment prospect for the apprenticeship graduates is 90%. For this reason, within the scope of VET4JOB, we invite all the youth in Turkey to learn a profession. For 4 years, they have theoretical training once a week at vocational training institutions, and they spend the rest of their time doing practical training in the workplaces with certified trainers. They earn a wage which is not less than 30% of the minimum wage in the first 3 years of their apprenticeship training, and after the third grade they earn not less than 50%. They benefit from students’ rights, health insurance against occupational diseases, and their pay can cover their own needs in most cases. The VET4JOB Programme provides food voucher and stationery assistance to the students, which serves to increase the number of students and ensure their continuity to the training.

While we intent to encourage the youth toward taking the apprenticeship training, we also try to develop the skill sets of the adults in their families with the perspective of giving them better chances to access labour market. The objective is to improve the welfare level of families and therefore to increase the chances of keeping the youth in the school system.

Moreover, VET4JOB initiates joint activities to improve social cohesion skills of both Syrian and Turkish youth and adults. Among social cohesion activities excursions are being organized, harvest festivals, art workshops and sport tournaments are taking place for refugees and locals to socialise together in a peaceful environment. Activities such as sports tournaments that require prolonged periods of cooperation, are the most effective ones in strengthening social cohesion.

We conduct household visits, to explain the incentives of apprenticeship and encourage household members to get vocational trainings.

VET4JOB also offers career guidance services alongside VET programmes and provide services to improve their employability skills, career planning services, job search coaching.

Because VET4JOB is based on four-party collaboration principle, (apprentice student – school – workplace – family), we also embark workplaces and schools.

We contribute to improvements in the workplace training environments for apprentice students when needed, and make sure the employers respect children’s rights. Enterprises that train apprentice students are obliged to make the environments where they provide practical training suitable for the physical, mental, social and educational needs of the students. With the same token we improve the conditions in the vocational training centres (VTCs), where apprentice students receive theoretical education and to increase their physical capacities.

The programme also aims to improve the Turkish speaking skills of refugees in Turkey and wish to develop their Turkish speaking skills further by means of practice geared to daily life.

We’re promoting quality apprenticeship training and vocational courses linked with labour market needs so that the host community and the refugees have sustainable employment prospects.

In which way the VET4JOB program addresses the expectations of the Turkish Ministry of National Education?

Our priorities are in line with the government’s: Vocational training is on top of the public agenda, which has boosted our activity for sure. From the legislative side, there have been many supportive policy adjustments, especially for Syrians. For example, if they are graduates of secondary education but do not have the diploma to attest it, they can still enroll in apprenticeship training, while being provided with intensive Turkish classes. This is also thanks to the advocacy of our partners, like Expertise France.

Turkey recently faced a tragic earthquake. How is Expertise France and its partners going to reorient the programme in this context?

The situation is still very bad. At the moment, we’re trying to understand the impact and adjust our activities accordingly. VET4JOB cooperated with 4 vocational training institutions in the provinces of Kahramanmaraş and Hatay, which were the most affected cities by disaster. Schools will soon recover, but the apprenticeship training also needs to continue in the workplaces, which were more severely damaged: bakeries, repair shops, construction companies etc. Although we are not a humanitarian program, we plan to support about 200 businesses through material help: small rehabilitation, maintenance, and repair. We will also increase the number of students benefitting from the food vouchers. Last, the earthquake initiated massive internal immigration, so we need to adjust accordingly. In Kahramanmaraş and Hatay, the education system should get back to normal in September.

Interview conducted in March 2023

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