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, according to a World Bank news report.
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 programme, and of them, 150 are employed. And this is all thanks to the proper training,” says Ugur Kolay, the teacher there.
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.”
About a quarter of million people go through ISKUR’s training programme 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.
With support from the World Bank, Turkey is assessing the success of the training programme. 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.