Post-conflict recovery

Sri Lanka: From dream to work

A new ILO project helps people find decent jobs in areas of Sri Lanka that were affected by civil war.

Feature | Sri Lanka | 01 March 2016
Ms Thayabaran Dharshini
VAVUNIYA, Sri Lanka (ILO News) – Thayabaran Dharshini was proud when she completed her diploma in preschool education. She looked forward to starting her dream job working with young children, and helping her parents and three siblings out of their financial difficulties.

But she struggled to find a suitable job in Vavuniya, her hometown, a former frontline in the Sri Lankan civil war.

“There were limited ways to get information about job vacancies in Vavuniya,”she recalls.

Then, she heard about the newly-opened Public Employment Services Centre (PES). The PES allows job-seekers to talk to trained officers about their expectations, get information about suitable vacancies, as well as free career guidance.

Thayabaran took her CV and went to visit the centre.

“I was a bit scared, but the hospitality shown by the PES staff was great,” she said. “They recorded my information and promised to contact me as soon as they found me a suitable job.”

Thayabaran got her dream job at a kindergarten and child care centre
Three weeks later she got a call from the PES staff about vacancies at a kindergarten and child care centre, called City Kids. The centre wanted two teachers. The PES recommended Thayabaran and another girl, Sinthuja, visit City Kids. Both received job offers.

“I was selected as the teacher for Tamil medium and Sinthuja as the teacher for English medium. I am very happy that I was able to get a good job where I could help my family and put back something for my future life,” said Thayabaran.

“I thank PES for helping me find my dream work. I shared this information with my friends…and asked them also to use the free, valuable services.”

Quick and effective

According to Suresh Kumar, who is in charge of Vavuniya’s first PES, such a quick and effective outcome would have been unthinkable before the first district PES Centre opened in June 2015.

I thank PES for helping me find my dream work. I shared this information with my friends…and asked them also to use the free, valuable services,"

Thayabaran Dharshini
“When the Department of Manpower and Employment was created in 2005, we were placed at each divisional secretariat offices in the Vavuniya District. Employment placement for job seekers was only a part of the work we performed,” he recalled. “Our office was crowded… so we found it hard to conduct our work. We hadn’t a separate computer to maintain job seekers database. Viruses were all over in the limited computers we had. The unemployed found it hard to come and meet us, most of them turned back many times.”

Recognizing the problem, the Department of Manpower and Employment sought help from the ILO with implementing the new PES concept. The centre was opened with €60 million of support from the European Union’s Support to District Development Programme (EU-SDDP) and technical assistance from the ILO Skills to support Local Economic Development (SKILLED) project. So far, the new PES concept has served half a million people from seven conflict-affected districts.

Tailored job placement

The Public Employment Services Centre helps people find decent jobs.
“We spent ample time with job seekers and potential employers, including one-on-one discussions to understand the requirements of employers and job seekers,” said Suresh.

Within five months of PES opening, 350 job seekers had registered with the centre and 130 people had been successfully placed in suitable jobs.

“It is very encouraging to see that the PES service has helped Thayabaran, and so many others, find work that makes the most of their skills,” said Donglin Li, the ILO Country Director for Sri Lanka and the Maldives. “The ILO, with the help of donors like the EU, is committed to helping young people match themselves with the needs of employers. Effective employment services play a crucial role in this.”