“The impact of the project reaches further than just offering employment skills: it is a great opportunity for us, and particularly for those who have been previously locked behind closed doors. We can now share, learn from each other, explore, get heard and socialise.” Project participant
Enhancing Employability Skills for People with Disabilities is part of British Petroleum (BP) and its co-venturers’ social investment portfolio and was implemented in 2018 by the British Council Azerbaijan with the support of the Ministry of Labor and Social Protection of Population (MLSPP).
The programme aims to increase employability prospects and skills of people with disabilities (PWDs) living in Baku, Azerbaijan. This is achieved by enhancing the English, technical and soft skills of the project participants. The main target is to boost the employability potential of the disabled young people through equipping them with essential skills.
Creating opportunities for everyone by promoting equality, diversity and inclusion in learning, recruitment, and employment is a top priority for British Council programmes in Azerbaijan. The Enhancing Employability Skills for People with Disabilities project engaged a large network of PWDs and brought together government officials and businesses willing to support disabled young people and bring change to society.
Azerbaijan has launched an innovative policy framework that supports the rights of the PWDs to vocational and medical rehabilitation services funded by the government. That said; there are gaps in the implementation of legislation and PWDs in Azerbaijan face challenges in accessing quality education and healthcare, and need support with finding employment. Infrastructure for people with disabilities is being developed, with many milestones yet to be reached.
Lack of education, skills and limited physical access to infrastructure prevents PWDs from actively participating in social and economic life in the country, leading to their continuous isolation and even discrimination. The unemployment rate, according to the state-published statistics, is low at 5 percent in 2016-17 (World Bank, 2015). Unemployment among the PWDs, conversely, is extremely high. There are 617148 PWDs living in Azerbaijan, with only 6.7% of them employed. This is one of the lowest indicators of PWDs in employment in the entire world.
Lack of the requisite and necessary education and academic and professional qualifications are one of the main reasons why the majority of PWDs are unable to secure competitive jobs in Azerbaijan’s labour market. A key role in the empowerment of PWDs is to provide training for skills that are appropriate for the needs of the local labour market. These skills are directly responsible for a greater degree of independence and autonomy among PWDs.
The Enhancing Employability Skills for People with Disabilities project selected 90 highly motivated PWDs and fast-tracked them for trainings on social, English language and computer skills. To further support English language skills, we partnered with the UK alumni in Azerbaijan and engaged the Azerbaijan UK Alumni Association in the project activities. A Steering Committee of 30 employers, as well as representatives of the MLSPP and employment centres, established a platform for open discussion, increased awareness of the challenges faced by the PWDs, and supported employment. Based on the face-to-face engagement with the employers, a job fair and master class sessions delivered by the partner businesses, the project reach increased to 70 employers and established databases for further communication.
The project received positive feedback from all the beneficiaries and besides the skills that the project participants developed during the project, psychological counselling sessions and regular communication with the trainers, businesses, motivators and as well as between each other helped them to gain confidence, enhance their social skills and become active members of the society.
“The impact of the project goes far beyond skill development, it has influenced the lives of the majority of participants and is an important starting point for positive changes in our lives.” Project participant
Along with the skills development in certain disciplines, the main impact of the project is the socialization opportunity that it has created for the project participants and as well as the network that it has built for further development, learning and employment opportunities. With the support of the project, participants learned about volunteer, self-employment, remote and onsite employment and training and learning opportunities which will motivate them for further learning and employment.
The project aims to reach a 60 percent employment figure for the engaged project participants by mid-2019. Today, 22 of the 86 participants have already found employment. This number however, includes the participants who have been employed prior to the project (seven) and joined to enhance their professional development opportunities. The programme supported internships for ten participants in the tourism, hospitality and IT sectors, while 11 participants participated in arts training activities through the British Council’s Unlimited Programme. Around 15 participants received initial job offers following the Job Fair and panel interviews conducted.
“It’s the first time in my life that I can forget about my disability and concentrate on my learning and gaining new skills.” Project participant