The most powerful learning comes from doing

Syrian and Turkish workers are developing their skills on-the-job, putting newly acquired skills directly into practice.

News | 22 February 2021
I recently graduated, and I hold my first job as an architect, it is quite exciting. My job hunting process was challenging. I wanted to work in my field of specialisation, and not work in another one just to start earning money. As a Syrian graduate, it was not easy at all. But I never lost my enthusiasm”.

These are the words of Mürşid Ali, 23 years old, one of the participants of İŞMEP (İşyerinde Mesleki Eğitim ve Gelişim Programı), which is a Work Based Learning (WBL) Programme. He works for Tuana Projects in İstanbul, and is happy to make his childhood dream come true. “I build my skills designing various projects, and also use both my Arabic and English language skills, as we work for projects in countries like Kuwait” he says and adds: “I always feel like I can do better and improve myself. I think I found the right place for this”. He is not the only one.

© Kivanc Ozvardar - ILO / Mürşid Ali on his first office desk.
İŞMEP is a support scheme implemented within the “Promoting Decent Work for Syrians under Temporary Protection and Turkish Citizens Project” under the Refugee Response Programme of the ILO Office for Turkey. The Project is funded by the Federal Republic of Germany through the KfW Development Bank and is implemented by the International Labour Organization (ILO) Office for Turkey in coordination with the Turkish Ministry of Family, Labour and Social Services.

İŞMEP is focusing on recent graduates recognizing that they need an opportunity to put theory into practice and acquire skills required by the labour market. By the end of 2022, over 1,000 job-seekers will be supported by subsidizing wages and work permit fees (in the case of Syrian workers). The social security premiums are paid through the Transition to Formal Employment Programme (KIGEP), another flagship program implemented by the close cooperation of the ILO Office for Turkey and Social Security Institution (SSI).

The Programme also helps employers to retain their employees: Some of the financial support continues through KIGEP, if they are kept in employment after the Programme ends.

© Kivanc Ozvardar - ILO

Technical and soft skills training better prepare employees for the labour market

The WBL programme consists of 90% on-the-job and 10% off-the-job training over the course of 6 months. On-the-job training gives the opportunity to acquire technical and job-specific skills that are put into practice while working in the supported company. When it comes to the beneficiary profile, 5 per cent of the beneficiaries will be persons with disabilities, and almost 1 in 3 employees supported by the programme will be women.

Furthermore, off-the-job learning equips employees with non-technical and soft skills – employees learn about fundamental rights at work, but also core employability skills, occupational safety and health, gender equality and workplace adaptation.

Abdulrahman Almallah, 24 years old, another beneficiary who started to work with the support of the WBL Programme, is looking forward to starting a new training. “I started to work for the first time as a formal employee. I have acquired the necessary skills while working and training has been complementary” he says.

© Kivanc Ozvardar - ILO / Abdulrahman works at Emir Tourism, with Emir Selçukoğlu, the founder of the company.
The WBL Programme supports both the supply and demand sides of the labour market: It supports workers to develop their skills and assists employers, through the payment of work permit fees as well as wage and social security premiums. This also strengthens SMEs where most refugees are employed, especially in those sectors that were hit hard by the COVID-19 measures. The tourism sector is among them.

© Kivanc Ozvardar - ILO / Emir Selçukoğlu
Emir Selçukoğlu, who is originally from Damascus, is the founder of Emir Tourism in Fatih, İstanbul. He struggles to find investment opportunities in Turkey, like many others. Containment measures due the COVID-19 crisis have heavily affected tourism operations, but he remains positive. “We are likely to adapt to new challenges, it is neither for the first time, nor the last” says Emir.

Exploring new talents

Necessary lockdown measures in Turkey due to COVID-19, like in many other countries, have led to economic and employment losses, with young people, women, workers in the informal economy and refugees being among the hardest-hit. At the same time, it has accelerated world of work transformations that were already under way. This includes the digitalization of work, which is especially true for Bimar Computer Technical Service in Ankara, an SME working in digital marketing and computer services.

Bimar’s digital marketing managers decided to employ young and motivated employees to be able to reply to increased demands. The WBL Programme has been supportive in this regard. They now employ four Syrian and four Turkish enthusiastic employees.

© Kivanc Ozvardar - ILO / Ahmed Şeyh Ahmed
Ahmed Şeyh Ahmed “I have not encountered any of the prejudices in here we may sometimes face as Syrians. We learn the theory at the university, however, we also need to practice. That’s what I value so much in here, I learn by doing”, says Ahmed Şeyh Ahmed, the new employee at Bimar.

© Kivanc Ozvardar - ILO
Gülse Erdek, 25 years old, his graphic designer colleague, adds: “I think what matters is competence, not the nationality while we work. We learn from each other, it is enriching for us all”.

© Kivanc Ozvardar - ILO / Young employees working at Bimar
The WBL Programme of the ILO Office for Turkey has so far supported 200 Syrian and Turkish employees to find a job and develop their skills. The Programme is designed with the aim of easing the pressure on the labour market and enhancing refugees’ self-reliance.

Turkey is, with over 3.6 million Syrians, the largest refugee-hosting country for the 8th year in a row. Syrians under temporary protection, since 2016, have the opportunity to obtain work permits through their employers. Even though around 2.1 million Syrians are at working age, very few are working formally and/or in middle or high-skilled jobs. The ILO’s Programme continues to provide opportunities for both refugees and host communities to access decent work for a better, more inclusive and productive tomorrow for all.

© Kivanc Ozvardar - ILO