INITIATIVES

 
STATEMENT OF OBJECTIVES

During the 18-month extension, the primary focus of the USA1D Labor Market Project will be shifted to identifying and eliminating labor market constraints on new job creation, with the ultimate goal of attaining sustained employment growth, higher wages, and rising incomes in Bulgaria.

The specific objectives of the modification are to:

(1) Improve the flexibility of the Labor Market needed for increased investment and growth in Bulgaria

(2) Help the country improve the competitiveness of its labor force to better meet the EU labor market demands

To achieve these objectives the LMP will continue to work at both the national and the local level to:

Develop and implement strategies that:

 address education and training constraints to the supply of labor skills as demanded by employers;

 validate the central role of the labor market as the natural link between new job creation and education;

 strengthen the weak institutional relations between the labor market and educational and training markets;

 target specific employers planning to expand existing businesses or establish new businesses, for the purpose of developing training and recruitment models that can be replicated with other employers.

AREAS OF WORK AND INDICATIVE TASKS:

1. Identification of employers’ needs and identifying options to address them:

The Contractor designed and implemented a survey of employers to identify labor market constraints to undertaking new investments, including companies that are currently active in Bulgaria, companies that came to Bulgaria but did not stay, and companies that may have potential to come to Bulgaria in the future. The following major activities have been undertaken:

Survey was conducted with 160 potential and current employers/investors. Collected information on labor market constraints was used in designing interventions;

Provide technical assistance to the GOB and other counterparts (e.g. Universities, other training providers, employers) to address the identified labor market constraints to investments, particularly in the areas of promoting certified training programs and internship programs;

Provide technical assistance to employer organizations and local labor offices in the three pilot municipalities of Sliven, Dobrich, and Razgrad in the use of the employer survey to collect feedback from employers/investors on local labor market constraints and needs, as well as to establish it as a regular benchmarking tool for improving the local labor market policies;

Replicate the employer survey methodology in other municipalities in close cooperation with the Foundation for Local Government Reform and the National Association of Municipalities in Bulgaria.

2. Model Labor Offices:

The Contractor will develop and implement a “best practice model” for local labor offices, in order to ensure enhanced communications between the employment offices and both existing and potential employers, as well as employees. This task should be accomplished in close coordination with the existing USAID programs working at the local level (such as LGI,. VEGA etc.). The following activities will be involved:

The Contractor will prepare and deliver customer service training to local labor office management staff from the three pilot municipalities geared towards communicating with potential investors, as well as propose to the National Employment Agency the introduction of performance-based incentives to improve the effectiveness of the work of staff at labor offices;

Replicate the best labor office customer-service models in the 9 regional labor offices, which coordinate and monitor the local labor offices all over the country;

Create and introduce set of performance based indicators and develop an IT application in the pilot three pilot labor offices that will effectively measure the impact of the active labor market programs;

Prepare and present to the National Employment Agency and MLSP a set of recommendations that will improve the overall process for delivering value-added services to people looking for work and employers looking for workers.

3. Training Certification Programs:

The Contractor will design and implement certification processes for skills training programs, to enable young working age individuals and long-term unemployed to acquire new skills that are documented by nationally and internationally recognized credentials. This task will encompass the following major activities:

Support the dialogue between MLSP and Ministry of Education to allow and encourage new types of associate degree and practical certification programs offered by higher education institutions and private training providers;

Support the design and promotion of nationally and/or internationally recognized certificate programs in priority areas (such as tourism, etc) by working, in collaboration with employers associations, licensed training institutions and universities, the MLSP, and other relevant parties;

Work with training providers and universities to advocate the incorporation of the certification programs in their curricula and make them sustainable;

4. National Internship Program:

The Contractor will design and implement a National internship program for university students and work towards the recognition of the practical experience from the program for university credit. This task will include the following major activities:

Create a virtual marketplace where students looking for internships and employers looking for interns will meet, as well as prepare a plan for ensuring the sustainability of this marketplace;

Organize internship fairs in Sofia and in the pilot regions focused on internships for the summer of 2005 and to establish a legacy mechanism to ensure that the fairs are held each year;

Work with the boards of Universities, selected on the basis of a clear and pre-defined set of criteria and after USAID approval, to allow students to receive credit for internship experience, as well as work with various stakeholders to create incentives for employers to hire interns.

5. Institutional support to key counterpart institutions

Parallel to these five major tasks, the LMP will continue to support key counterpart institutions such as: MLSP, National Social Security Institute, National Employment Agency, Labor Inspectorate, and others as relevant and appropriate, in specific tasks by providing them with limited and focused training, IT assistance, public awareness and education.

TANGIBLE RESULTS EXPECTED:

1. New programs in place at the MLSP focused on eliminating labor market constraints to investment.

2. Education and certification programs in place that meet the current skill needs of employers.

3. Significant increase in number of University students who receive practical work experience through internships.

4. Better provision of Employment Agency services in matching workers to jobs and in delivering cost- effective assistance.

BENCHMARKS (6-12 months after modification is signed)

1. A National Internship Exchange Internet site is designed to allow students and employers to arrange internships for the summers of 2005 and 2006.

2. Survey methodology developed and introduced to pilot Municipalities, to collect feedback from employers/investors on local labor market constraints and needs and ready for replication around the country.

3. Increase in the availability of short- and medium-term training programs that provide skills to workers through nationally and internationally recognized certificate programs.

4. A “best customer service practice model” developed for local labor offices and ready for replication around the country.