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Breaking into the job market

Ein Hotelangestellter steht im Restaurant. Er trägt einen Mund-Nasen-Schutz und schaut in die Kamera.

Signs of the corona pandemic can be seen in the lobby of the “Albanian Star Hotel” in Durrës, but life still carries on: Guests talk among themselves, and members of staff go about their jobs wearing facemasks. At the reception, a member of staff is showing a young man the hotel’s computer software. A guest comes up to them to hand in his room key and ask about what there is to see and do in the Albanian port city. The young man gives him some advice – confidently, friendly and openly. “Just now, we were practising how to communicate with customers. Now I could put it into practice for real”, says Fabian Kodra. He is 23 years old and participating in a training program held by the GIZ which is still going ahead despite the pandemic, though of course while strictly observing all the relevant hygiene regulations.

The GIZ in Albania offers young people a variety of training programs via the German Information Centre on Migration, Vocational Training and Careers (DIMAK). The hands-on training makes it easier for them to break into the jobs market. They spend four weeks learning the basics in fields such as tourism and gastronomy. They welcome hotel guests, make the beds in the rooms and serve meals in the dining room – and in the process learn how to get things done while using their own initiative and how to present themselves as competent and willing to help. After completing the training they are awarded with a certificate. The training programs form part of the "Returning to New Opportunities" programme run by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ). They are aimed both at returnees as well as locals who are looking for new opportunities.

Cooking techniques and how to plan the dinner menu

Fabian Kodra recently returned to Albania from Germany. He studied business informatics in Germany and worked in a restaurant at the same time. “That experience is very useful to me now”, he says. In Albania he’s continuing his studies at the Epoka University. What he wants to get out of the training programme in particular is some practical experience. “My course at university is 60 percent business-related and 40 percent IT and programming. That’s a lot of desk work. Here on the other hand I can get stuck in more. I’d also like to work in the tourism industry one day”, says Kodra on his way into the hotel kitchen.

On the agenda in the kitchen this afternoon is cooking techniques. The kitchen team answers all the questions from those taking part, whether it’s about flash frying at high temperatures, caramelising a dessert or planning the dinner menu. The young adults also get the chance to have a go at doing some cooking themselves – while remembering to keep to the hygiene and social distancing regulations.

Straight from training into work

Some of those taking part already have some work experience, while others have only just finished school. One of the latter is Endri Plaku. The 19-year-old has just started a degree in tourism management at the Aleksandër Moisiu University in Durrës. The training programme has given him an unexpected opportunity. The staff of the Harmonia Hotels Group quickly recognised his talent and enthusiasm. Now, two days before the end of the training programme, they are offering him a job. “I’m really happy about this”, says Plaku. “I’ve had a lot of fun over the last four weeks and I’ve learnt a lot.” He already knows which part of the industry he wants to work in one day. “Social media is going to become even more important for the tourism industry. In the future I can see myself as a social media and marketing manager.”

The team which organised the training programme is pleased for Plaku. “It's good to see that those taking part are making the most of the training”, says Halisa Duka, an advisor at DIMAK. “Our training programmes in the tourism industry were a new beginning for many people. Thanks to the professional training they’ve been given here at the hotel they are already almost qualified members of staff. More than half of those who have taken part in the training programme at the Albanian Star Hotel in Durrës so far are now employed in the industry.” Besides Durrës, the training programmes are also held in two other hotels in Tirana and Shkodra. So far a total of 115 men and women have benefited from the programme.

The pandemic is making it harder to find work

Despite all the good news however, the corona pandemic has not only had an impact on the hotel in Durrës and the way the training programmes can be held, but on the whole labour market in Albania. Younger people are the most badly affected. Further training opportunities have been postponed and planned jobs have been eliminated. Almost everybody who has taken part in the training programmes has said that the pandemic has had a negative impact on their employment prospects.

Despite the challenging situation for all concerned, the training programmes are still important, says Halisa Duka. “As a DIMAK advisor, it is essential for me to keep in close contact with people, whether face to face or virtually. We try to keep in touch with them during the pandemic as well and give them the support they need.”

The certificate that all participants are given at the end of the programme is a first important step towards a career in the tourism industry. During the four weeks, they not only received practical training but also gained new experience, which can help them to get into the labour market in Albania.

As of: 09/2020

Here I can get stuck in more. I’d like to work in the tourism industry one day.
Fabian Kodra