Good morning, your Excellency Prime Minister Mustafa, Minister Stavileci, Deputy Minister Zogaj Gashi, your Excellency Ambassador Delawie, colleagues from Helvetas Swiss Intercooperation, dear beneficiaries and guests. I am highly delighted to deliver remarks at this event, which I know has been long-awaited for many of those gathered here today.
Let me start off by warmly congratulating sixty-two (62) WoW women who are graduates of the Second Phase of the Women in Online Work pilot. I was not able to attend the graduation ceremony from phase I this past September, but I hear that you have been as diligent, industrious, and successful.
In other words, you’ve been impressive as trainees, and it is our utmost pleasure to share the joy and pride of your graduation.
The speakers before me have well outlined the purpose of the pilot, the impact it generated, and the way forward in the context of Kosovo. So I’d like to take this opportunity to highlight how we, at the World Bank, view what has been achieved.
The WoW pilot has been one of the most innovative digital training interventions recently designed and implemented by the World Bank in Kosovo, and perhaps elsewhere. There are three distinctive features attesting to such a conclusion.
First, the pilot had a highly collaborative design. Not only specialists from several World Bank’s departments (ICT, Jobs, Development Economists) contributed to the pilot design but also government agencies of Kosovo and local experts. Here I would like to salute a very important contribution of Deputy Minister Zogaj Gashi who has assembled a special Advisory Group which some of you, present here, have actively taken part in.
Thanks to this effort, the World Bank was able to sign a Memorandum of Understanding with the Enhancing Youth Employment (EYE) project, financed by Swiss Cooperation Office and implemented by a consortium of Helvetas Swiss Intercooperation and Management Development Associates. This partnership has produced additional support to the outreach around the project, as well as entrepreneurship and English language training for beneficiaries under Phase I.
Second, WoW successfully combined hands-on, market-oriented digital skills training with online job bidding. Rarely does a training convert to job contracts, especially as early as in the process of the training implementation.
In the context of WoW, some beneficiaries learned how to bid on online work contracts, others went as far as to successfully bid and complete several contracts. I also hear that some beneficiaries got hired for competitive longer-term contracts, or even found jobs locally. We all know that the white-collar market warmly embraces those with prior work experience.
WoW linked talented underemployed labor to the arising opportunities in the global digital economy.
This second point leads me to the third. WoW proved some of the hypotheses reflected in our systematic country diagnostic (SCD) and other strategic documents.
These hypotheses could be briefly summarized as this: ICT is a unique sector to leverage the youth dividend for job creation, especially in Kosovo. Before WoW we all insinuated about the untapped potential of local labor, particularly women in rural municipalities who are without employment. Now we know that, with the right training and empowerment, they can become globally competitive and gain on a merit basis meaningful work experience to sustain themselves and their families.
Promising initiatives get noticed. In this regard, I’d like to thank our partners who have committed to scale up WoW in the new municipalities: USAID-funded EMPOWER Private Sector Project, USAID Advancing Kosovo Together - Local Solutions Project, and Swiss-funded EYE project.
It is always reassuring to know that your ‘baby’ ends up in good and capable hands. On your end, you can always count on the World Bank as a trusted adviser and collaborator. If we have the means, we will gladly support expansion of the pilot: to new areas, to new groups of beneficiaries, and with new modalities.
Speaking of our interest to support WoW, I’d like to finish my remarks by inviting the Government and donor community present at this graduation ceremony to a special donor coordination event sometime in June, which aims to seek synergies around a regional WoW initiative.
Deputy Minister Zogaj Gashi was instrumental in rallying support for expansion of WoW in the Western Balkans, by liaising with Governments of Albania and Montenegro. We decided to capitalize on this interest by starting a consultation on the donor level around ways to conceptualize and finance this undertaking. We hope to count on your presence and ideas.
On this note, I’d like to end. Once again, I’m saluting the program graduates on their achievements to date and undoubtedly many more in the future. My utmost appreciation goes to the Ministry of Economic Development and all of the stakeholders who have contributed to make this pilot a success.