Youth with disabilities forum

Forum mladih sa invaliditetom | Youth with disabilities forum

The first Employers and Interns Forum held within the internship program for young people with disabilities

April 10, 2024 – Twenty employers and twenty-two interns, participants of the “Internship Program for Young People with Disabilities,” implemented as part of the “Job FIt” project funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and conducted by the Youth with Disabilities Forum, gathered today to exchange impressions and experiences gained within this program over the past two months. Young people with disabilities had the opportunity to apply their knowledge and skills in desired positions and to improve them under the mentorship of employers from leading companies in Serbia, who have adapted and opened job positions for people with disabilities. 

Challenges faced by young people with disabilities in job searching, accessing job positions, and developing professional skills were highlighted at the Forum, but efforts and support of companies participating in this internship program to initiate positive changes were also recognized and praised. 

“More and more employers recognize the potential and talents of people with disabilities living in this country. At the same time, they are taking steps to make their workspaces more inclusive and accessible. I want to thank those employers for their leadership and for showing that including people with disabilities in work teams can make businesses stronger! We hope that this internship program will become an effective model for other companies in Serbia to follow to provide adequate job opportunities for people with disabilities,” said Brooke Isham, Mission Director of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). 

Although a series of affirmative measures have been adopted to encourage the employment of people with disabilities, there are still challenges and barriers that hinder their successful integration into the labor market: unfavorable educational structure, lack of equal opportunities for educational training and internships, and lack of opportunities to acquire skills necessary for certain jobs. Even when people with disabilities have the opportunity for education and development of their professional competencies, they often encounter a lack of opportunities for practical application of those skills in real work environments. 

“This program improves the employment prospects for young people with disabilities through practical experience and acquisition of new knowledge and skills. At the same time, employers are provided with the opportunity to apply inclusive procedures in recruitment and selection processes in practice and make all necessary individual adjustments to the workplace and work tasks,” said Sladjana Levic, Program Director of the Youth with Disabilities Forum, emphasizing the importance of comprehensive support for the employment of people with disabilities provided within the “Job Fit” project through career counseling and guidance and the job portal for people with disabilities 

According to the data of the National Employment Service, nearly 11,000 people with disabilities are unemployed in Serbia. According to the report of the Youth with Disabilities Forum on the position of young people with disabilities in the labor market (2016), young people with disabilities most often work in positions below their qualifications. Most of them work temporary, short-term jobs and therefore have less chance of permanent employment. 

“My experience as an HR associate intern at the fashion house ‘Mona’ is extremely positive and very significant for my further career path. I believe it will facilitate my search for a permanent job, because an internship is one more work experience, and every work experience is significant in job searching, especially in the field of psychology, for which I have been educated,” said Teodora Palinkas, an intern in the HR team at the company “Mona.” 

The business sector plays a vital role in promoting equality in implementing diversity and inclusion policies by ensuring equal opportunities in employment, creating accessible work environments, and engaging in corporate social responsibility initiatives. 

“The motivation for joining the internship program stemmed from the intention to make PepsiCo a more inclusive organization that nurtures diversity and actively fights against prejudices, stereotypes, misinformation, and potential discrimination against certain social groups in our community,” said Vilena Visnjic, Talent Acquisition Manager at “PepsiCo,” and emphasized that the training provided by the Youth with Disabilities Forum within the internship program was very significant, practical, concrete, and informative, given that the company participates in such a program for the first time. “The application of acquired knowledge was reflected in the use of appropriate terminology and communication during the selection process and now in cooperation, as well as in respectfully examining what needs to be adjusted in terms of workplace, space, and the position itself, so that both parties benefit from it,” Vilena added. 

Today, we have recognized some of the good practices for empowering young people with disabilities within the program and awarded companies and employers who strive for truly inclusive business practices and accept diversity as strength. 

The project “Job Fit: Economic Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities” is funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and implemented by the Youth with Disabilities Forum, together with Ana and Vlade Divac Foundation, Caritas of Serbia, Smart Kolektiv and the Center for Independent Living of Persons with Disabilities.

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