Tunya Celasin, Sr. Communications Officer in the World Bank office in Ankara, offers this story.
In Sincan, a suburb of Ankara, twenty or so students are learning how to make machine tools. They meet in the evening, in a big technical high school that sits empty except for them. The students are taught complicated computer software in class, software that runs the industrial machines they use to model plastic tools out on the shop floor.
Too Many Unemployed
The number of unemployed young people in Turkey stands at about 18 percent, above the world average. And unemployment among the young has long-term negatives, both for a person's health and happiness, but also for a country's prosperity and social cohesion. Unemployment can mean lower lifetime earnings and increased physical and mental illness in later life. It also reduces productivity and economic growth, and it can lead to increased social unrest and even violence and crime.
But for every one of these students practicing their craft on a Tuesday evening, there is a job waiting.
"I've had 150 students go through this program, and of them, 150 are employed. And this is all thanks to the proper training," says Ugur Kolay, the teacher here.
This 400 hour class is part of Turkey's national job agency training program, called ISKUR. ISKUR offers training classes in 500 professions—everything from hair styling to computers, child care to ship building. One of the most lucrative is underwater construction, sinking pilings for bridges and other projects.
But most trainees stay on dry land, like Makbule Simsek, one of two women in the machine tools class. "I've learned software and I've learned machines, from here I can go on and find many different jobs, "she says.
Her fellow student Soner Baser also feels optimistic about the job market, saying, "I can work anywhere, but if I hadn't taken this program, I'd have jobs, but I wouldn't have a career. Now I can have a career."
Big Demand for Help
About a quarter of million people go through ISKUR's training program every year. About 60 percent of those get hired on as permanent employees. The demand from employers is moving away from service work toward industrial jobs.
Most trainees, ISKUR's Abdulkadir Yanici says, want office jobs. But the more demanding technical jobs are where the growth is. "Even graduates of vocational schools can't find jobs, so we bring them up to current standards by providing special training. We adjust their skills to the needs of the market," he says.
Now Life Begins
Eren Cimenlik, who is 28, is one such trainee. He was studying business, but he hated being unemployed. He's interested in computers, and he thought ISKUR training could help. "In Turkey we say life starts when your job starts. I am really happy to have a job now and I can start planning for my future."
Now that he has a job, he says, he plans to marry his girlfriend and start a family. Eren is one of four ISKUR trainees, out of eight, who've been hired at Ankara Seramik. The ISKUR four have been trained to make metal caps to put on high voltage power lines. They work with computer programs and high tech machinery.
The company is happy with their work, says Ankara Seramik's Ismail Uzum. "We're pleased that we hired young people, we're helping cut unemployment, and making this investment now will pay off not only for the company but for economy of Turkey."
Practical, Not Theoretical, Training
The most important part of the training, says an ISKUR graduate who studied accounting, is the hands-on practical experience he got. Emrah Tengilimoglu is former jobs trainee student, now working as a driver in a courthouse in Sincan. He wants to be an accountant, though he says he's delighted to be employed at all.
What he liked most about the ISKUR training, he says, is that instead of just talking about how to do something, students actually do it. "What's unique about the program is that you practice, you use your learning, that's what makes it worthwhile," he says.
Demand from Employers and Potential Employees
With support from the World Bank, Turkey is assessing the success of the training program. Fewer than half of the working-age population is employed—and only about a quarter of working-age women, the lowest among Turkey’s peer countries. If they can prove their training helps people get jobs, ISKUR officials hope, the government will expand it.
Currently, about twice as many people apply for ISKUR training as get in. ISKUR officials hope that, if the assessment proves their training helps people get jobs, the government will expand it.