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From hotel business management to painting - learning opportunities for young people and seniors

2010.CH04/mac-4

There are several groups of society, for instance, youth, unemployed youth, job seekers, young parents, and seniors, who have rather limited resources for improvement of their knowledge and development of their skills. Practice reveals that informal education as compared to academical education is more effective in terms of personality growth and development. Such support is of great value if rendered at the places of residence of youth and seniors.

The society "Latvian Business Women Association" operates for more than ten years to facilitate the improvement of living conditions of persons subject to risk groups in society. Presently Latvian Business Women Association in cooperation with a partner organization from Switzerland, namely, the Club for Women Entrepreneurs” implements a project aimed at creation of opportunities for learning for socially excluded youth and seniors. This project is just one among more than fifty projects that are being implemented with financial support from Swiss Confederation and the Republic of Latvia during 2011-2012 with an overall objective to reduce socio-economical disparities and to improve the quality of life of inhabitants.

Project involves approximately four hundred young people subject to risk of social exclusion or poverty. Two hundred of them reside outside the capital city of Riga. Project also involves around 30 seniors. Project is being implemented in various locations in Latvia - in the city of Riga and the city of Daugavpils, as well as in Leimani township of Jekabpils county. The target group of youth at risk of social exclusion and poverty comprises unemployed youth, job seekers, as well as young parents up to the age of 25.

A range of informal education activities and skills development courses are carried out in the project. In order to enhance competitiveness of young people in the job market, three informal education programmes were developed: “Development of entrepreneurial and communication skills”, “Accountancy and liabilities”, and “Marketing and sales”. Thirty young people had the opportunity to complete these informal education programmes via internet. It is envisaged to continue the improvement of e-environment for distant learning purposes. Presently developed e-academy is integrated in the website of the society at www.lbwa.lv. It needs to be noted, that, upon completion of this project, hese informal education programmes will be made available for everyone wishing to learn. Ten most successful youngsters had the chance to visit the cooperation partner in Switzerland.

In order to ensure support for young people of the target group in the long run, wide range of consultations were available at the places of project implementation covering issues of education, career development, as well as social support issues. Up to date (September 2011) more than 70 courses on skills development were held for youth, with participation of more than 450 young people. The range of topics covered in seminars was quite wide and included, for instance, project management, tourism and hotel business administration, as well as creation of artificial flower decorations and making of fashion accessories. As noted by the chairperson of the society, Irina Petersone: “Of especial interest to young people were the courses in hotel business administration, and painting classes among seniors”.

Lifelong educational activities for seniors were carried out in the form of pilot activities – open cost-free classes in painting and art. During these classes seniors were able to socialise and acquire new skills under the guidance of a professional artist. The exhibitions of created works were already held locally in Leimani township in Jekabpils county, in the city of Daugavpils and in the Riga city council. Travelling exhibition of works of art created by seniors was also shown in Geneva, Switzerland. Such event not only raised self-awareness of seniors, but also motivated to proceed with started activities.

It is expected that this project will result in young people having a better chance to get involved in community life, gettin a job or becoming entrepreneurs themselves, thus reducing their economical dependance. Easily multipliable e-learning environment and skills development programmes tailored to the needs of young people are expected to be among project outcomes, too.

Article written: September 2011