Fair Opportunities for a Fresh Start in Business

Running a business in wartime means operating in a highly unstable environment with interrupted value chains, compromised logistics, uncertain imports and exports and weakened markets. Helvetas is working to improve job prospects in Ukraine.  

  • Project Name
    Ukraine Economic Resilience Programme (ERP)
  • Project Phase
    2023 to 2024
  • Funding
    SDC and private donors
  • Thematic focus
    Private Sector Development
    Skills, Jobs and Income
    Sustainable and Inclusive Economies
    Urban Engagement

Twenty-six percent of all businesses in Ukraine had to (almost) cease operations in the first year of the war, and another 50% had to reduce their activities. The World Bank estimates that up to 26% of the people in Ukraine – around 3.2 million – are now unemployed.  

The once prosperous and now restricted agricultural sector is forcing small farmers to find new sources of income. The need is also great in other sectors. 

Getting businesses back on their feet 

A large effect of ongoing conflict is its impact on the economic foundations and employment opportunities of future generations. Helvetas is committed to helping small and middle-sized companies (SMEs) get back on their feet, supporting the people involved in them to become financially independent again. Together with the NGO Mercy Corps and partners from Alliance 2015 (WHH and Concern), Helvetas is providing financial grants to help start up or rebuild small and medium-sized micro-enterprises. Support provided during the conflict will avoid business closures and maintain the economic resilience of Ukrainian society.

© Alessandro Parente
After the war, the owner of a café - a French woman - closed its doors. Sergej, a friend of hers, has now reopened it. Thanks to financial support from Helvetas, he was able to buy a good coffee machine and some kitchen appliances. © Alessandro Parente
© Alessandro Parente
"Only by reopening stores can we get people to live here again," says Sergej, himself an expert in coffee roasting. © Alessandro Parente
© Natasha Zima
Oleh Konovalov's bookshop was hit by shrapnel right at the start of the war, destroying parts of the building, the furniture and many books. Thanks to the support of Helvetas, he was able to reopen his bookshop. © Natasha Zima
© Natasha Zima
"I've always dreamed of running a cozy, beautiful bookshop where people like to meet." Thanks to the support of Helvetas, his dream is coming true for the second time. © Natasha Zima
© Iva Zimova/Panos Pictures
Eleven "students" of different ages - people who have lost their jobs because of the war - are learning to weld. © Iva Zimova/Panos Pictures
Welders are needed to repair the infrastructure of buildings that were destroyed and damaged during the war.
© Helvetas
Trainee plasterers at work. © Helvetas

Adapt vocational training to regional demand 

In addition to houses and infrastructure, the war also destroyed businesses and retail chains, and many residents have lost their jobs, for example in the region of Kharkiv in eastern Ukraine. Helvetas is therefore promoting training for professions that are currently urgently needed for reconstruction, including: welders, painters, heating engineers with a focus on renewable energies, financial controllers, plumbers and plasterers. This provides people with an income and strengthens SMEs.

The focus is on training displaced persons and those who have stayed behind in Kharkiv near the Russian border and in Dnipro. Helvetas works with vulnerable groups such as people with disabilities, large families and single parents. Three courses are held in sign language.

© Natasha Zima
Sign language interpreter Oksana Perepelytsia translates the course program for hearing impaired people. "I am inspired by the fact that my participation makes the training process accessible to those participants who need it", she says. © Natasha Zima
© Natasha Zima
Volodymyr Podenko is instructor of such a welding class: "Working with a sign language interpreter is an interesting experience, more challenging, but still rewarding. Also, while teaching adults, the welding classes had more women than in my previous years of teaching students.” © Natasha Zima

Helvetas is also providing systemic support to enhance the vocational education training (VET) capacities in Kharkiv. Support will be provided to two VET institutions through in-kind goods for the replacement of damaged or outdated technical equipment, with a view to longer-term institutional collaboration to improve VET curricula and practice.

Through this project, Helvetas will also support its partners nationwide to collect data, monitor and support designing sectoral VET strategies that incorporate private sector demand and are tailored to each region. Helvetas is also strengthening online platforms such as Diia Business, which offers market information, documentation and support for developing and implementing a business idea. 

Finally, Helvetas will support direct access to employment through business platforms or business grants in several sectors, such as mechanics, construction or services. At least 325 individuals will benefit from Helvetas’ “training for employment” program and access to sustainable employment opportunities. 

© Natasha Zima
«For me, it's not just a job, it's an opportunity to make a difference in people's lives and help them realize their potential through new skills»

Volodymyr Podenko, vocational instructor (right), here at one of the welding courses held in sign language

Voice, Inclusion & Cohesion

In many countries where we work, men and women are unable to claim their rights and participate actively in decision-making processes.

Wie wir Menschen in Albanien unterstützen

Helvetas unterstützt in Albanien Jugendliche bei ihrer Arbeitssuche. Zudem steht Helvetas Gemeinden bei der Umsetzung der Abfallentsorgung beiseite.
© Helvetas / Patrick Rohr

Making Markets and Jobs