Young, educated, and looking for a job!

Photo by Liva Romane

When Laura (23) started studies at The Faculty of Social Sciences in The University of Latvia she had to find a job to pay for her living so she started to work as a babysitter in the kindergarten. Asked how she managed to combine studies with a part time job, she tells that it was very hard: “I had to wake up at 7 o’clock, went to the early lectures, in the afternoon went to the work and got home at 11 o’clock. I did my home works at night and woke up at 7 again. I wonder how I managed to survive it, I think couldn’t do it now.”

The average student in Latvia living in the dormitory in the first years of studies needs approximately 100 – 200 lats (200 – 300 euro) per month [1]. Many of them get social loans, help from their parents and few get scholarships but Laura had to make living on her own. As a part time babysitter she earned 240 lats. It was necessary for her to work since there was no any other way how to keep on studies but money issue wasn’t the only source of the pressure. After she got the budget place she also had to study a lot to make sure she wouldn’t lose the opportunity to study for free: “Emotionally it was very hard but I didn’t think about it much. The hardest part was getting a job after the studies,” tells Laura. For the first months after graduating Laura felt frustrated. “I sent approximately 40 CVs and in the most cases I didn’t get the answer at all.”

Laura kept on working as a babysitter since she wanted to live in Riga where there were more possibilities to get the job than in the countryside. Still Laura was determined to make career in media after graduating and it took her a year and a half until she started to work as video editor.
“You won’t get a job if you don’t have the experience but you can’t get the experience if you don’t have a job” has become a common phrase among young people in Latvia. When you ask them to tell about job perspectives in their chosen profession, majority is pessimistic and understands there’s a possibility that after graduating they won’t find a way to earn money with the knowledge and experience gained in universities. The relation between theoretical and practical skills is not necessarily related to the demands of the labor market. One of the main reasons is the growing popularity of Law, Economics, and Communication and Media studies. In this case labor market is overloaded with graduates in Social Sciences but qualified engineers and graduates from professional colleges are absent.

The cooperation between universities, students and employers in the most cases hasn’t been productive for the last years and only now when the quality of education has been more actively discussed, the collaboration is possible. One of the platforms for dialogue among students, academics and employers is a forum “Ready for a Labor Market” made by Student Association of Latvia (LSA) and held in September, 2012. The presented solutions show the correlation between the practical courses in universities and potential work places and employment. Education policy makers, academics, students and representatives of The Free Trade Union Confederation of Latvia stress the necessity to make parts of higher education programs fit the needs of labor market and employers, educate young people about lifelong learning and labor rights, and stress the role of government as the main institution capable to encourage and support both students and employers. [2] If taken these measures could become a real solution for unemployment issue in Latvia but it should be considered that the labor market situation is extremely dependent on the whole economic situation of the country. Also the question rises about the student motivation which is not always affected only by the quality of studies but also by the experience, personal aims and expectation of the future life. “Competition is needed if you want to grow up not only as a personality but also as employee. Motivation makes you more favorable for the labor market, especially in the time of crises when employees are looking for alternative and innovative ideas,” tells Laura.

In the beginning of the 2012 European Commission asked to solve the youth unemployment issue in Latvia since almost 30% of unemployed people are youngsters. [3] The main aim set up by EC is to make sure that graduates could find a job in four months after getting a degree. Although discussion about the quality of higher education and labor market has been a part of a daily agenda for the last years, unemployment is still THE issue for students in Latvia. Previously mentioned solutions and further cooperation between all the involved parts could give a hope for young people in the labor market.

[1] Diena. (2012). Studenti mēnesī vidēji iztiek ar 100-200 latiem. Retrieved.: 30th October, 2012. http://www.diena.lv/latvija/zinas/studenti-menesi-videji-iztiek-ar-100-200-latiem-13966004

[2] LSA. (2012). Darba tirgum derīgs. Sk.: 30.oktobris, 2012. http://www.lsa.lv/dtd/2012/10/01/ideju-foruma-prezentacijas/

[3] EK pārstāvniecības Preses nodaļa. (2012). EK priekšsēdētājs aicina Latviju pievērsties jauniešu bezdarba samazināšanai. Sk.: 30. Oktobris, 2012. http://ec.europa.eu/latvija/news/press_releases/2012_02_01_lv.htm

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