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SICA Success Stories

Expanding Youth Employment Opportunities in Kazakhstan through Professional Education in the Digital Sphere

Samal Rakhatova studied social media management in university, but she had trouble finding a job in the field upon graduation. She worked other jobs but felt unfulfilled and distanced from her passion. Eventually, she quit her job and became virtually unemployed, until she found Promising Professions for the Future, a project supported by USAID’s Social Innovation in Central Asia (SICA).

Initiative Support project team posing for a photo

Support for Initiatives—a civil society organization based in Kyzylorda, Kazakhstan—launched Promising Professions for the Future: Solving the Unemployment Problem to help thousands of youth like Samal. Since 2020, the unemployment rate has increased in nearly half of Kazakhstan. Recent university graduates may experience long periods of unemployment before finding a job—sometimes not even related to their field of study. When 18,406 people recently applied for work at the Kyzylorda employment office, only 8,441 applicants, fewer than half, found jobs.

But this problem is far from insurmountable. With an Innovative Solution Grant from USAID’s SICA, Support for Initiatives created specialized training and professional development opportunities in key digital skills, which are in high demand as companies work remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic. The initiative offers training in social media management (SMM), cell phone photography, graphic design and more.

Samal was one of the first students to enroll in SMM courses and one of the most active participants. The coach taught students strategies for making money through internet platforms and resources. By the end of the course, Samal had already earned about 300,000 tenge.

Reinvigorated to pursue her social media passion, Samal began taking contracts from local entrepreneurs as a social media manager. Now, while working with small and microbusinesses, she also conducts large-scale marketing activities for Assol LLP, a large agricultural company.

Unemployment trends illustrative photo

SICA’s Innovative Solution Grant helped Support for Initiatives offer comprehensive trainings, equipping participants with a better understanding of local and regional labor demands. Samal was not the only participant to find success. Fifty percent of trainees in short-term SMM, cell phone photography, and graphic design courses were able to find a job or became self-employed.

Furthermore, the grant from USAID’s SICA allowed Support for Initiatives to offer these career-changing courses for free, eliminating financial barriers to professional development. “This project is so important because it guides young people in the right direction by showing them there is a possibility to earn a living in really fascinating and up-and-coming fields,” says Samal.

Since completing courses, Samal has opened her own virtual SMM courses, providing 15 lessons with an emphasis on online sales.

“I currently earn an income of about 500,000 tenge per month, which I estimate will double soon. I plan to start giving part of this money to charity—I received the opportunity to study for free and now I earn funds that I can dedicate to helping others in need.”

Now, Support for Initiatives is looking higher, using its lessons from USAID’s SICA program to help create systemic changes by working with the Ministry of Labor and Social Protection of Kazakhstan to create the Electronic Labor Exchange. This short-term online training program was launched in mid-2021 to create free courses and tools for job seekers. The portal is a significant result in helping unemployed people find new opportunities and work on important professional development competencies.

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