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This blog piece is based on the case study written by Gavin Anderson for the RisiAlbania project.
In a country with almost a third of 15-29 year olds are officially unemployed, Fjonalda Sh., 27, and Eno H., 24, were two of Albania’s huge number of youth without jobs. The unemployment issue has not just been about the lack of jobs and the mismatch between skills and job vacancies. It has also been about the gap between understanding and aspirations of young people and their parents, and the realities of the Albanian job market. Both Fjonalda and Eno had their perceptions changed by exposure to information about opportunities for employment in areas that they had never considered working in previously.
“[I have] changed my perception for the professions which were not regarded as interesting or beneficial before, especially traditional familiar professions and businesses. My mother is a good tailor and she is running her own business. Now I am working together with her and I find this profession interesting and beneficial.” Fjonalda Sh.
“[…]different examples of young people working in different jobs, changed my attitude towards working. These are not bad jobs. So I decided to work in a car wash business. And I would like to have my car wash business in the future.” Eno H.
So how can a project using a systemic approach work to change perceptions and improve understanding around the labour market in Albania, leading to better education and career decisions by young people?
Many development projects have bought media space to deliver the messages they wanted. However, this approach means that once funding stops, so does the message and the information to the target group. The challenge is therefore not to use mass media as a short-term tool to disseminate information, but rather to change the way that media reports on employment in a sustainable way.
Specifically, this means changing or improving the mass media system to provide relevant information to young people and their parents – in an attractive and profitable way. The improvement in information would influence the choices that young people make about employment and tertiary and vocational education (labour market system change). This, in turn, impacts on the ability of young people to find employment (employment change).
Between 2014 and 2016, the RisiAlbania project has successfully stimulated the launch of 12 new media programmes in TV, radio, newspapers and online portals, six of which without any support from the project. This was done through awareness raising and support to pioneer media to develop new labour market content (capacity building, marketing, co-funding of development and audience monitoring). There is strong evidence of both product and market sustainability. As the owner of one of the supported radios put it, “We have received more profits and much more audience and also a different audience from other days” Q: What is different about the audience? A: “many more younger people”.
These media products are having a significant impact on the perceptions and behaviour of audience: 89% of the audience of more than 110,000 people found the programmes useful or very useful, and 71% of the audience stated that the media products have changed their perception around employment. That is at least 78,000 people, out of which 53,000 actively changed their behaviour and took action following the information received. These changes were particularly strong in improving understanding and awareness of vocational training, promoting self-employment and in changing perceptions around desirability of careers and skills that are in demand from employers. Pirro Jani, Director for Regional Public Training Directorate Nr.4 Tirane, says:
“We have noticed an increase in the number of enrolments of young people in different branches of the school after the publications in Shqiptarja.com and on A1 report…These [media]outlets have encouraged many young people to view vocations as the real path to employment in Albania.”
Indeed, the youth, potential employees and employers were being influenced by these media products. This also extends to parents and family members who influence the educational and career choices of young people. In the words of Bilibil Z., a parent from the city of Durres, “After watching the TV programme Ti Mundesh and [reading the supplement] Drejt Punes, I have suggested to my son the orientation towards a professional career about which these programmes have provided a lot of information.”
It is not just job seekers and their parents who need to adapt to the realities and opportunities of an ever changing labour market. Service providers, policy makers and employers themselves also need to stay informed of changes and opportunities and to adapt their way of operating. The media intervention also serves to influence service and training providers to adapt and create a new offer based on actual labour market needs. The project sought to work with educational institutions but was first approached by the Department of Journalism and Communication of the University of Tirana. The project, however, did not foresee that this would greatly impact the training market.
One example is Gladolia Dona, Founder and Director of the newly established Hospitality and Tourism Academy in Tirana.
Marketing and advertising is one of the areas in which the project’s initiative could be perceived to be weaker. The assumption that the media would be able to sell such products worked for some partners but less so for others.
Most development projects buy media space to deliver predefined information. Yet often the resulting spots, programmes and publications stop once funding ends. The initiative by the RisiAlbania project shows an innovative case to improving information on youth employment by working to stimulate the launch and growth of profitable employment-oriented radio and TV programmes, print media supplements and online websites. In short, the main objective was not to use mass media as a short-term tool to disseminate information, but rather to change the way that media reports on employment in a sustainable way.
The case illustrates the opportunity to achieve an impact that is a win-win-win for commercial media, the audience and the development project itself. The approach that was adopted by the project has promoted long-term and large-scale changes within the media industry beyond the project’s life span.
Want to know more? Please contact RisiAlbania at email@example.com
Ermira Shyti is Intervention Manager of the RisiAlbania project.
Isabelle Fragnière is the Deputy Project Manager and International Advisor of the RisiAlbania project